February 25, 2011

Our New Auxiliary Bishop

St. Margaret Mary parishioners bid fond farewell to their pastor

Paul and Beth Sullivan, members of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, Mass., say goodbye to their pastor, Bishop-designate Christopher J. Coyne, during a Feb. 13 reception at the Westwood Council on Aging in Westwood, Mass. (Submitted photo)

Paul and Beth Sullivan, members of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, Mass., say goodbye to their pastor, Bishop-designate Christopher J. Coyne, during a Feb. 13 reception at the Westwood Council on Aging in Westwood, Mass. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Many members of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, Mass., will travel to Indianapolis for the March 2 episcopal ordination of their pastor, Bishop-designate Christopher J. Coyne.

Few, however, will give him a more heartfelt farewell than 18-year-old Reggie Sethna.

And few will be as close to him during the liturgy as Reggie, who, along with his twin brother, Cyrus, has been asked to assist him during the ordination as an altar server.

Reggie, and Cyrus were born in India and adopted when they were 18 months old. They were born with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that doctors have told them leaves them with only 12 to 14 years to live.

Bishop-designate Coyne has helped Reggie come to terms with this prognosis.

“We talked about what it meant for me and what it meant to my family, and how I felt about it,” said Reggie in an interview with The Criterion in which he often spoke with emotion about his pastor. “He really encouraged me just to live every day the way I should live it, and to be strong and to have faith in God and believe that my life is in his hands.”

Reggie has also come to hold his pastor in high regard because, through him, he has begun to believe that God may be calling him to the priesthood.

“He’s really inspired my call and helped me discern it in a way that was real to me,” Reggie said. “[He helped me learn that] I needed to spend time in silence and to learn how to pray, and to discern that call as I was hearing it, and not to try to push it out of my mind or to deny that I might have a calling.”

Reggie was tempted to deny it because many of his fellow high school students made fun of him when he would talk about his interest in being a priest.

“Being kind of bullied around for it, I felt sometimes that I should just push it out of my mind and not mention it,” he said. “But [Bishop-designate Coyne] was always there to say that I should listen in the silence of my heart, and that I’ll be able to hear the call.”

Reggie also said his discernment is connected to assisting his pastor as an altar server at Mass, something he continues to do. Through that, he has found a great love for the Eucharist.

“Every time I stand at the eucharistic table with him, I feel like I’m that much closer to the eternal banquet table,” Reggie said. “He really has inspired in me a love of the Eucharist, and a devotion to the Eucharist as a real part of my life.”

Trish MacDonald approaches the eucharistic table frequently as a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish. And since Bishop-designate Coyne became pastor there some four years ago, she has begun to take Communion from the parish to residents of a nearby nursing home.

“That is probably the most rewarding thing,” MacDonald said. “I’m fortunate enough to bring our Lord to people who are so hungry for him.”

She was led to this ministry by Bishop-designate Coyne, who also served as her spiritual director and confessor since his arrival at the parish.

The beginning of his ministry in Westwood was a godsend to MacDonald.

“I can’t tell you what an impact he’s made on my life. I was in a very dark period,” she said while holding back tears. “He basically made me want to live again.”

What Bishop-designate Coyne did for MacDonald, he also, in many respects, did for the entire parish.

According to MacDonald, other parishioners and members of its staff, St. Margaret Mary Parish had some challenging years before Bishop-designate Coyne was appointed its pastor.

Since then, new life has been breathed into the parish. The number of ministries has multiplied. Parishioners nurture each other’s faith in small Christian communities. And its religious education program, which has more than 800 young people enrolled in it, has outgrown its classroom space.

“He’s shown all of us how to be part of a community,” said St. Margaret Mary parishioner David Zapcic. “He led by example. His great leadership helped do that.”

That leadership led Zapcic to become involved in the parish after a long period where all he did was attend Sunday Mass.

“He really fosters an atmosphere of inclusiveness,” Zapcic said. “It’s clear through what he says [and his actions] that he wants folks to be involved. I think one of his great values is that he’s a great community builder.”

Zapcic and other parishioners said that Bishop-designate Coyne in part inspired this atmosphere by building up their faith through strong preaching, writing and the celebration of the Mass.

“He has helped foster in many of us a stronger sense of our faith—through his wonderful weekly sermons, his expert and practical, meaningful interpretation of the Scripture, and his devotion to help us all appreciate the time we have together to celebrate the Eucharist each week,” Zapcic said. “His weekly letters and blogs make great reading at our house, and help keep the Mass alive during the week for us in a small way.”

Ken Foscaldo, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish for 42 years, watched the re-enlivening of his parish with great happiness.

But he thought that Bishop-designate Coyne, whom he described as “fantastic in every way possible,” was destined for greater things and told him more than once that he should be a bishop.

“He’d [jokingly] say, ‘Don’t you think I’m doing a good job here?’ ” Foscaldo said. “And I’d say, ‘You’re doing a fabulous job. And I want you to stay here. But, for the greater good of the Catholic Church, I’d like to see you have a position of more voice and more responsibility.’ ”

When his intuition proved to be true, Foscaldo had mixed emotions, much like many of his fellow parishioners.

“He’s done so much for our parish,” Foscaldo said. “I’ve developed a good relationship with him. My family is all lamenting the fact that we’re going to be losing him.”

Now that St. Margaret Mary Parish is losing its beloved pastor, members are saying that the Church in central and southern Indiana will be greatly blessed by Bishop-designate Coyne’s life and ministry as an auxiliary bishop here.

“He’s a renaissance man,” Foscaldo said. “I can’t tell you how fortunate your archdiocese is to have Father Chris coming.”

“I know he’s going to do the best job possible,” MacDonald said. “He has such a love of God and of people. I want the best for him because he’s done the best for me.” †

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