On his 25th anniversary as a bishop, I (we) sent Archbishop Wenski congratulations from “the priest and people of St. Sebastian” tucked into some orchid plants. He responded:
Dear Jim and Parishioners of Saint Sebastian:
Thank you for the orchids you sent to my home for my 25th Anniversary of episcopal ordination.
I am grateful for your thoughtfulness and kindness. +Thomas Wenski.
Considering all he has on his plate, I was grateful for his note. More important than orchids, we must offer our prayers for him. Think of the challenge of walking the very fine line between the demands of the gospel and the tragedies that surround us. It takes huge doses of the Holy Spirit, especially when some subjects come up that have meant a great deal to you over the years.
For example, on February 13, 2022, The Sun Sentinel quoted the Archbishop: ...“(our governor’s) reference to unaccompanied minors as ‘disgusting’... was a new low in the zero-sum politics of our divisive times.” The Archbishop had to speak after the decades he worked with Cuban and Haitian immigrants. That gave him the voice with which to speak.
How do you bring the Gospel to the table? No matter how you try to set the table, and no matter how hard you work to make people comfortable at the seating arrangements, someone will be unhappy. Does that mean no one eats? I don’t think so. Who knew what would be coming next...
The heartbreaking Martha’s Vineyard stunt probably did reach a new low. I believe reports said that there were eight children among those sent.
What is the greatest commandment? Love God. What’s the second commandment? Love your neighbor.
Do we need to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” I hope not. Integrating the gospel into our day-to-day lives means running the risk of being misunderstood. You simply cannot use people and make them your pawns in games, especially when you do not know precisely what the game is.
The outreach of the folks at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard reflected the gospel. Jesus said, “As often as you do it for one of these least of my brothers, you do it for me.” Notice Jesus did not say, “As often as you do it to my brothers...”
The outreach of St. Andrew’s to the ‘least of my brothers’ reminded me of Archbishop Wenski’s effort over the years to do the best you can for those in need with whatever you’ve got. Fifty plus years ago he had a Solidarity banner hung in his seminary room cheering on Lech Walesca as Walesca led Poland out of Communism. (Even if you come from Lake Worth, Polish blood runs deep.)
The Cuban immigrants and especially the Haitian community got Tom’s attention and he pastored the Haitian Center parish, Notre Dame d’Haiti for more than 20 years.
The foregoing sounds like something you would say in an obituary. My point is that we never know the whole story about anyone. But the more we do know, perhaps the more we can appreciate someone. Seems to me like we were given a tri-lingual bishop who was the right man at the right time. Thank you, Holy Spirit.
My prayer is that the Archbishop will be around to bury me in 20 years or so.