Fr. Brad's Homily from November 18-19

“I’ll Be With You Every Step of the Way”

On the weekend of November 18-19,  our rector, Fr. Brad Baker preached at all of the Masses about our Centennial Capital Campaign.  The text of his homily is below.

Just weeks ago, on October 8th, when Edward Hensley woke up to run his  9th Chicago Marathon, he felt some “minor pain” in his left thigh.  Though this was far from ideal for a long-distance runner, Hensley wasn't running for time this year – just to finish. 

Hensley thought to himself, “If this is the way it's going to be, I'll be able to manage it.”  Hensley didn't know it yet, but he was about to run the first 24 miles of the marathon with a fractured hip.

“At about mile 20, his hip really started to act up.  At mile 24, Hensley felt something he had never felt before in his life, and he couldn't walk anymore.”  Hensley's hip had snapped in half.

“The pain was excruciating,” he said.  Hensley took a seat on the ground and tried to get back up, but couldn't.  A Chicago Police Officer standing about 20 feet away walked over and asked if he was alright before helping Hensley to a nearby aid station.

The police officer wished Hensley luck, and Hensley thanked him before the officer walked away.  After 40 minutes at the aid station, the police officer “reappeared.”  “The officer said, 'Listen, something in your eyes told me I needed to come back and talk to you.  You really want this, don't you?'”

He further said, “If you need to go, I'll be with you every step of the way.”

After hobbling together for about a block, a second Chicago police officer offered assistance.  That officer noticed a nearby folding chair, which Hensley would use as a cane for the next two miles.  The final two miles took more than an hour for the three of them to walk.  One officer told Hensley:  “We'll be here as long as you need us for however long as it takes.”

Hensley was runner 42,860 to finish the 26.2 mile marathon with a time of 6 hours, 47 minutes and 44 seconds.      

What an amazing real life story of accompaniment.  Pope Francis has identified accompaniment as a supreme value in the lives of those who claim to be disciples of Christ.  Those two police officers did just that.  They recognized a person in need, and invested their talents in Edward Hensley -  truly making a difference in his life. 

Sometimes, I think, we forget just how blessed we really are.  We often neglect to realize all the good things in our lives --- all of which have their ultimate source in God.   

And the blessings our loving God showers down upon us are numerous, continuous, and without equal.  And one of the first steps in living a life of faith is acknowledging them – naming the blessings and giving thanks to God for them.  And we do so for a simple reason: so that we can, in turn, use those gifts in the service of others.     

The “paying forward” of all God has given us is evidence of true faith, a faith that is alive and strong and able to stand the challenges of life.  

In its 100 years of existence, St. Raymond Parish has always been gifted with parishioners who have recognized their need and responsibility to invest their talents and be a blessing to others.  Our parish family has benefited from unwavering support in the form of time, talent and treasure – providing prayer and worship, accompaniment, service, charity for those in need, and financial resources to support our ministries and expansion of our campus throughout its first 100 years. 

On this particular Sunday though, I want to focus on the fact that we became beneficiaries of such an expansive campus of buildings, that continue to evolve and serve the needs of our parish and Diocese.    

Warren Buffet once wisely said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”    

Throughout our parish's 100 years, those who have gone before us, have invested their time, talent, and treasure to shape the ministries, buildings, and resources which allow us to have such a vibrant parish community.  We have a responsibility to honor the gifts we have received from those who formed and nurtured the growth of our parish, and we are called to additionally pass on rich gifts to today's generation, and those who will come after us. 

I will forever be grateful to the hundreds of families and individuals who have supported our Centennial Capital Campaign.  The funds generated since 2014 have allowed us to renovate, beautify, and expand our parking lots.  We have additionally installed ADA accessible doors at three Cathedral entrances, and have been able to make our Cathedral Sanctuary stair free with the creation of ramps for use by clergy and lay ministers.  We have also created a safer environment for our grade school and religious education students with the installation of a new grade school building lobby, and the introduction of security cameras.

This weekend, I am particularly excited to see natural light restored in our Narthex as the Portico and Pillar work in front of the Cathedral is nearing completion.  With the installation of steel supports in the pillars and portico, and tying the portico structure into the Cathedral itself, we have stabilized and beautified the front facade of the Cathedral for generations to come.    

If funding allows, our next project, slated to begin in March 2018, is the restoration of our 17--story Bell Tower.  In April of this year, a fractured piece of stone fell from high atop the Bell Tower, from about 130 feet.  No one was hurt, but the magnitude of the problem was alarming. 

Since that time, drones have provided us with a greater understanding of the structural issues plaguing the Bell Tower.  We expect this work--the first major repairs since the Tower was built in the early 1950s--to cost approximately 1.2 million dollars. 

Bishop Conlon has generously agreed that the Diocese will again be our 50% partner on this project.  To date, the parish and Diocese acting together as equal partners, have invested $4.1 million dollars to make the Cathedral and campus improvements I have outlined to you today.  

As with many older structures, the portico and pillars rebuild was more complicated than expected, and it has exhausted our parish's funds in reserve.  This means that we will need to have $600,000 on hand or pledged before we can begin the necessary work on the Bell Tower in March. 

While I sincerely wish I didn't have to approach you again for financial support, it is a necessity.  We all understand wants and needs, and it's clear that the Bell Tower Work (like the Portico and Pillars) goes beyond “need” to the level of necessity.

As with any aging building, other work will continue to be needed on our buildings including  tuckpointing on the Cathedral itself and a floor to ceiling cleaning of the Cathedral interior.  These projects will be advanced as our fund-raising allows.

I ask you to prayerfully consider how you can help our parish.  Please review all that is enclosed in the brochure that was mailed to all registered households that have a history of giving with us.  There are three ways for you to financially give to this second phase of our Capital Campaign.

Perhaps you are new to our parish or your finances did not allow you to make a gift when we first asked for gifts several years ago, then you can make a first time gift or pledge.  Or maybe you have already made a one-time gift at our initial ask, or have retired you pledge, please consider a gift or pledge to this second phase of our campaign.  Or if you are like me, and are still making pledge payments to the Centennial Capital Campaign, you can make a difference by extending your pledge payments by one, two or three years.

God asks that we use every blessing we have received in order to be a blessing to others.  As two noble police officers invested their talents by accompanying Edward Hensley to finish the marathon, the work he started,  I hope I can count on each of you to “be with us every step of the way” as we seek to repair and improve our Cathedral and campus for today's generation, and generations to come. 


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