A greeting from new pastor Fr. Matt Holland
Dear St. Leo parish family,
Just over seven months ago, Jesuits West Provincial Scott Santarosa, SJ told me he wanted to mission me to be your new pastor. I’m filled with deep gratitude and excitement that the time has finally come. In the interim I’ve been in frequent contact with Fr. Steve and Anne Tropeano and I’ve had the opportunity to meet our exceptional and dedicated staff. You have been in my prayer constantly. Now I’m looking forward to finally meeting you. During visits to St. Leo these past months I’ve witnessed firsthand what Fr. Steve describes as the “presiding spirit” of this community – the spirit of generous hospitality and welcome, the way you invite people to feel at home and to share in the life and diverse gifts that you have been given. I’m encouraged and moved by this sign of God’s abundant love and care here in Tacoma and I know that this is only scratching the surface, that more will be revealed.
Please take the time to introduce yourselves to me in the upcoming weeks and please be patient with me as I try to match names and faces. Do know that I am here first and foremost to serve you in our common mission of working for the reign of God in this particular place and time.
In many ways I feel like I’m coming home. My parents are only a half hour drive away in Port Orchard and four of my six siblings and four of my eight nieces and nephews live nearby. I graduated from Bellarmine in 2000 and taught religion and social studies there from 2009-2012. During the latter time I went to Mass at St. Leo on the weekends. Fr. Steve began as pastor just a year before I entered the Society of Jesus. I’ve known him the entire time because he was the vocation director who reeled me in (with more than a little help from the Spirit). He will continue to be greatly missed, but it comforts me to know that he will meet the wonderful folks at St. Francis Xavier parish in Missoula and at St. Ignatius Mission and that he is just a phone call away.
In mid July I went to Browning, up on the Montana Hi-Line just east of Glacier National Park. The Diocese of Helena and the Blackfeet nation jointly offer the Justice Outreach Project (JOP), a weeklong service learning immersion in Blackfeet culture, perhaps similar to the Youth Migrant Project in the Skagit Valley. This year, JOP corresponded with the Indian Days celebrations with traditional singing, drumming, dancing, stick games, Indian Relay races, and a rodeo. My first afternoon at JOP a Blackfeet elder guided us in erecting a tipi. He carefully explained the necessity of procuring lodgepole pines from the western side of the mountains where the trees grow taller and the singular value of the 8-10 bison hides that were sewn together and stretched over frames made of 12 poles reaching high toward the sky. Tipis are made out of canvas today but the entrance still faces the rising sun in the east. We set up a sturdy structure in about forty minutes, a shelter that can withstand the driving winds on the plains.
Tipis are both durable and movable. Generation upon generation of grandmothers, mothers, aunts and daughters set them up and took them down. They placed them on travois hauled by horses as the families followed after the bison herds. They carried their home with them as they sought after the source of so much of their life.
This weekend we continue to hear from the Bread of Life Discourse in the Gospel of John. It started with the prodigious sign of God’s tender care when Jesus fed a hungry crowd from two fish and five barley loaves. This is Emmanuel, God with us, who makes a home among us. This is our God who in the words of the prophet Hosea leads us with cords of human kindness, with bands of love; who fosters us like one who raises an infant to his cheeks (Hosea 11:4). St. Ignatius church on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana has a wonderful reminder of this: the tabernacle (literally tent, or a moveable habitation) is housed inside a tipi.
It’s my hope that we continue to lean into the movement and the change our community is experiencing with that Ignatian grande ánimo, that greatness of spirit and magnanimity and that largeness of generosity that so characterizes this family of faith. May we always remember that Christ, our solid and unshakable home, gathers us here together that we may be one, Christ who sends us forth to be food and shelter for all we meet.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Matt Holland