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June 11, 2017

PENTECOST SUNDAY

JMJ

I attended Fr. Charlie’s anniversary party last Sunday and was very moved by all of the words that were spoken not only by him, but for him, and also for Fr. Jim Swiat and the late Fr. Larry Delaney, who were all ordained by John Cardinal Dearden 50 years ago. While I was there I saw Beth Nofs, a founding member of our parish, and was inspired for her to be the guest columnist.  Fr. John

 

Pentecost, 2017 by Elizabeth Nofs

Today three priests were honored for 50 years of service. They were ordained on June 3, 1967 at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit and began the adventure of their lives. Fr. John approached me at the ordination celebration and asked me to write about Holy Spirit Church’s founding pastor, Fr. Charles Irvin, who served from 1987-97.

I met Fr. Charlie in 1972 at St. Mary’s Student Chapel when I went to U of M. He brought me into the Church, witnessed our marriage, and gave my children First Communion. As one of the Holy Spirit “originals” this is my perspective of our history.

Starting from Scratch: Fr. Charlie came to Green Oak Township to create a “People’s Parish.” It did not have a name or even a place. He held services at the VFW Hall, the American Legion Hall, the Fitzgerald’s farm down Musch Rd, and the Lutheran churches. He stressed that the community center should be built first, even before the church. In those early Masses, celebrated in Hamburg, we built our community.

You Be The Church! Bishop Kenneth Povish and Fr. Charlie broke ground on 37 acres. Holy Spirit had three offices, two bathrooms, a big Parish Hall, and four hundred yellow chairs. The chairs were arranged for Mass, then stacked and set up for liturgy worship. Saturday night, they were set up for Mass again. We had an active youth ministry, choir, liturgy worship and parish council. I think we were thinner back then because we had to move the chairs.

Fr. Charlie insisted that the Church was us, the body of Christ. He commissioned and empowered us to go and serve the Lord. If you asked to use the phone in the kitchen or move the chairs he said, “Go Ahead. It’s your church!”

The First Festival: The Festival had one tent for the men: Cars, Silent Auction. One tent for the Women: Hello, Women’s Guild! and the Beer Tent. The Festival was how we raised 30% of our annual budget.

It rained and rained and rained during the first Festival. Fr. Charlie said it was, “Biblical!” The tractor that pulled the hay wagon hauled quite a few cars out of the mud Friday, Saturday and even Sunday morning as parishioners arrived for sunrise Mass in the beer tent. More rain. The tents leaked. Just at the time that Fr. Charlie raised the Host, the sun came out. Everyone cheered. We took that as a sign.

The Holy Ghost: Fr. Charlie taught us how to live together as a family. He would pull the white robe over his head, swoop down on kids in the hall, saying “It’s the Holy Ghost!”

In Times of Trouble: In 1986 a teenager in our parish, Sean Moore, was abducted. The press descended upon Holy Spirit, but father did not allow the TV cameras and the crowds to control the story. Instead, he led everyone in prayer. When the boy was found murdered, he helped us to live through the tragedy. The healing continues. Fr. John said Mass in memory of Sean Moore last year.

Unconditional Love: It was in the Sacrament of Confession that Fr. Charlie taught us about ourselves and our relationship with God. The burden of sin was lifted and we became whole, wholesome and Holy again: Free of the pain, filled with love.

Glory to God in Cyberspace: In the early days of the Internet, 1995, Fr. Charlie sent out weekly emails, “Monday Morning Alka-Seltzer,” to help us keep on track. The little missives were signed: Gloria in Excelsis Deo et in Cyberspace! In 1999, he became the founding editor of FAITH Magazine, a new way of evangelizing that focused on real people living their lives in Christ. Today, FAITH Magazine, and the companion website, is the largest Catholic diocesan publisher. The total annual combined circulation of all FAITH client titles now tops 1.7 million. One in five Americans receiving a diocesan publication receives a magazine from FAITH Catholic.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer in our Day: Fr. Charlie published a book in 2005, “Entering the Heart of God”, which is a series of mediations on the Lord’s Prayer. It is not an easy book to read because it challenges us to reflect on each word. An example from his book: “Behind each of the words and phrases in the Lord’s Prayer lies a rich array of concepts. Take the first word, for instance. Have we spent much time meditating on the word Our? Most of us probably have not. But we should. Jesus selected every word deliberately. Perhaps we should spend some equally deliberate time meditating on His choice and why He placed it as the first word of the prayer He taught His disciples.”

A Personal Note: My Own My Sheep Know My Voice (John 10:27): My life was changed forever after I attended my first Mass, Palm Sunday, and shouted, “Crucify Him!” I had to know more. The St. Mary Student Chapel was the closest Catholic Church so I walked across campus from Martha Cook dorm to study with Fr. Charlie Irvin.

Slow Learner (Proverbs 3:12): But I was a slow learner and may be the only one who ever flunked RCIA. I went back and studied for another year. I listened to him teach for hours. He was a lawyer who became a priest.There was much to learn! 1975 was my grand slam year: confirmation, graduation, and wedding.

What Return Can I make to the Lord? (Psalm 116): I cannot imagine living without Christ-it wouldn’t make sense. I am glad that I went back for RCIA a second time and learned with Fr. Charlie Irvin. The sacraments have been present every day in forty years of raising a family. Thank you is a small word in exchange for the gifts that I received from becoming Catholic. The best I can say is: I love you, Fr. Charlie.

Addenda:

We have begun the process of planning for a new parish directory. Ellen Skolnik is our coordinator. She has several helpers. Phil of Universal Church Directories is the company rep. Anticipate signing up soon for photos beginning in early August(2-5). We’ve decided on a dual-edition format meaning we will have a parish family portrait album and a ministry/activity album.  Fr. J

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