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Meditations: A fond farewell from Rev. Ray E. Atwood

July 5, 2017
Rev. Ray E. Atwood , Traer Star-Clipper

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Cor. 13:11).

On July 11, the parishes of St. Paul (Traer), St. Mary (Eagle Center), and Sacred Heart (La Porte) will receive a new pastor, Fr. Michael Hutchison from Ghana. The following reflections were prepared for Father Atwood's departure:

It has been the privilege of my life to serve Prince of Peace Cluster the last five years. It was not an easy assignment, but I am glad I took it. There are wonderful people here, and we have accomplished much together. Our cluster mission is to welcome and inspire our parishioners to nurture and share their Catholic faith through prayer, sacraments, service, and love of God. That mission has been my personal one as well. I would not have traded these five years for anything on earth. I came at age forty-five, and am leaving at age fifty. I will look back on these years with fondness and gladness.

As pastor, I have focused particularly on two groups: the elderly and the young. Hopefully I have been able to serve those in between as well. My main goal has been to present plain old, basic Catholicism as both Christ's truth for eternal life, and the source of virtue, dignity, service, love, beauty, consolation and a little fun, for our lives on earth.

My firm conviction is that the Catholic Faith (despite the failings of the Church's human members through the centuries), contains the fullness of what Jesus Christ wants us to believe and live for our salvation. For that reason, I have emphasized, in preaching and teaching, what we believe and practice, and why.

A pastor wears many hats, including the educational hat, the administrative hat, and the community hat. Personally, the pastoral hat is the easiest to wear. It is the reason a man becomes a priest and is centered upon holy Mass, the sacraments, and the eternal salvation of the souls entrusted to his care.

The "Greatest Generation" of World War II held to the values of family, faith, hard work, sacrifice, disciple, self- improvement, personal morality, community, the dignity of every human life, patriotism, striving for excellent education, etc. Sadly those values have died in so many parts of our great country. Fortunately, those values are alive and well in Tama and Black Hawk counties. I like to think that the Catholic Church's influence is one reason for these values.

In leaving for my new assignment in Oelwein/Fairbank, I will keep wearing the pastoral hat as I take charge of a Catholic grade school. I will miss the pastoral hat here in Traer/Eagle Center/LaPorte, but I carry memories indelibly impressed upon my mind and heart.

So farewell, and thank you for everything, and for making these years both challenging and enjoyable.



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