As we approach and prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth during the grace-filled season of Advent, I wish to send you my prayerful greetings and best wishes. May the birth of Jesus Christ be a time of rebirth for the Church and each one of us.
The quick passing of seasons and years urges us to search for the true meaning of life. We Christians strongly believe that only the one who said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” can lead us to a deeper understanding of what life is all about. Let us welcome the Incarnate Lord in the sacred temple of our soul, following the examples of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wisemen, Elizabeth and John the Baptist, and Simeon and Anne. It is through this personal encounter with God who humbled Himself to share in our humanity, that we allow His great Love to transform our lives.
May the Holy Spirit rekindle our desire to eagerly receive our Lord who comes to us daily in the Word and Sacrament, to take flesh in His Church and in every baptized person as he did in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The mystery of Christmas is about our openness to the One who is called Emmanuel, God with us. May He find a warm dwelling place in each of our hearts.
2020 will be an exceptional time of new beginnings for both myself and the parish. After several years of petitioning my provincial minister, he has finally granted my request to be relieved of my office as pastor. Saint Leonard’s has been the longest uninterrupted assignment I have ever had. I arrived at the parish on September 8, 2004, amid the tensions generated by the fresh reconfiguration of the North End parishes. To say that the first years were challenging would be an understatement, yet this is not to say that the subsequent years of my tenure have been any less of a challenge. But the last fifteen years of my life and ministry have also held many blessings.
Primary among the many blessings I have received, I count Father Claude, my associate. He has worked hard during these years despite his increasing age. He is a good priest, a kind individual, and a joyful brother with whom to live. I can never thank him enough.
I have also enjoyed the pastoral support of many young Jesuits from Boston College, who have distinguished themselves especially through the ministry of their preaching. The cooperation of my brother priests of the Saint James Society based at Saint Stephen’s rectory, and the support of the friars of Saint Christopher Friary have also been a comfort and joy. I think of, with immense joy, the major feasts of the Church year, such as Holy Week when seven or eight priests gathered together at the altar to concelebrate the Sacred Mysteries.
As I reflect on some of the activities within the Church, the introduction of the weekly devotion of the Divine Mercy, preceded by Eucharistic adoration, has proved to be a fount of mercy and peace for a growing number of souls. I wish to note the progress made by our parochial school, both in enrollment and academic excellence, under the leadership of Sister Irene and Mrs. Karen McLaughlin, who remained in office until September of the current year.
A special blessing has also been the support and encouragement of my Franciscan superiors, and my diocesan shepherds, such as The Very Reverend Robert Campagna, OFM; His Eminence, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap; His Excellency, Bishop Hennessey; and the Reverend James Flavin, to name a few.
I must also remark on the appreciation and admiration of thousands of visitors who enter our church every year to find its doors open late into the night. So many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, have expressed what a great grace it is to find a place of peace in the middle of the bustling North End. The messages of appreciation, both verbal and written, as well as the generosity of our many benefactors spread throughout the country and beyond, have been greatly appreciated.
We are blessed by the more than thirty couples who request to be married in one of our parish churches each year. Most of these requests come from outside the parish. So too, we count among our blessings the growing number of Baptisms occurring in the parish and the devotion of so many former parishioners who have requested to celebrate their funeral Mass in one of our North End churches.
We are a diverse parish community. Our visitors and benefactors play no less of a crucial role than our local community; for without them we would not be viable as a parish community. Thanks to their financial support we have been able to accomplish many extensive and costly restoration projects for all of the Saint Leonard’s buildings and grounds. These places were in deplorable condition in 2004, and the balance sheet of the parish on June 30, 2004 was $166,207.78. Divine Providence shed its light upon us in the subsequent years and by June 2019, we had repaired and restored the church, rectory and garden by investing more than six million dollars in repairs. This does not include the generous expenditures donated by the Saint Joseph Society in significantly improving the parish hall. Thanks be to God the parish has been able to pay its expenses and is now solidly in the black.
Before I close this note, let me with sincerity of heart, acknowledge a society and parishioners who deserve a direct mention of gratitude. On behalf of the Saint Leonard parish community, I wish to thank in a particular way, the Saint Joseph Society, the single largest benefactor since the inception of the parish in 1873. You may not be aware that their significant and generous donation of one million dollars to our parish was never solicited. Their board members approached me, as pastor, to offer this generous gift to our parish in appreciation of the work of the Franciscan Friars throughout the 146 years since the founding of the parish. It should also be known that the Saint Joseph Society is the society for which Saint Leonard Church has done the least in the past. As we approach a new chapter in the history of Saint Leonard Church, may this spirit of support and cooperation between the parish and society continue for many years to come.
There are two individuals that deserve the utmost gratitude on behalf of myself and the Saint Leonard parish community. First, the late Mr. Peter Palermo, who bequeathed in his will $779,181.24 to our parish in 2007. This generous gift was the first substantial amount set aside for the restoration of Saint Leonard Church. May Peter’s soul rest in peace and may this parish community gratefully remember him in their prayers. Lastly, words cannot express the appreciation due to my good friend and loyal parishioner of Saint Leonard Church, Landy Germano for his unsurpassed loyalty and generosity. Through every restoration project we have embarked on in the last fifteen years, Landy has tirelessly contributed his many talents and outstanding professional expertise in selfless service to our parish. We have such astonishing results in the restoration of our church building and church property. Landy is the first one who deserves to be credited with the success of these projects. As a pastor, I am personally grateful to this gentleman whose genuine love for the Church is equaled only by his proficiency in all aspects of building related knowledge. Landy truly embodies our Christian call to stewardship: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10) From the bottom of my heart, I must thank you Landy.
As I leave the parish after 15 years and 4 months of ministry, I am grateful for the opportunity that was given me during my time as pastor, yet I am happy to leave now. I have served longer than any other pastor in the history of the parish. No one who comes to a parish intends to stay forever. I am happy to now welcome a new energetic pastor equipped with the qualities and knowledge to well serve this community. He will certainly have new challenges to face. I wish him to receive the same encouragement and blessings I have received during these past fifteen years. I will gladly leave meditating on the words that my Seraphic Father Saint Francis used to repeat continuously at the end of his life “Let us begin again brothers, for up until now we have done little or nothing.” May his love for Jesus inspire us all.
Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year 2020.
Father Antonio Nardoianni, OFM