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Goodbye: In 480 Words or Less by Fr. George W. Rutler


June 16, 2013

Writing a weekly message to you is a challenge even under ordinary circumstances, because the cruel regimen of the printer requires that it be done with 480 words or fewer. Usually I spin it off on a Monday morning, which is not the most inspiring time in the week for most people. In the twelve years that I have been pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, I have written many hundreds of columns, and of them all, none has been more daunting for me than this one. In 480 words I must explain that I shall be moving on to a new position, albeit for the same Saviour who has been so patient with me as a poor priest of His since Cardinal Cooke ordained me in the Lady Chapel of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on September 8, 1981. I promised obedience to the Cardinal and to his successors, and I have done that and continue to do that and shall do that until all my earthly shepherds turn me over to the Chief Shepherd, whom I hope will spare the rod and comfort me more with his staff.

I was gratified that so many wanted me to stay here, and Cardinal Dolan was not unaware of that when he decided that he has other tasks for me to undertake. The Church is vaster than any particular parish, beloved as ours is for many far and wide, and while I am moving to the far other end of our island on the West Side, it is not like going to the moon. I am to be pastor of St. Michael’s Church near Pennsylvania Station and administrator of Holy Innocents Church in the Garment District. St. Michael’s is on the southern perimeter of what New Yorkers long ago came to call “Hell’s Kitchen,” but that is not the Hell from whose fires we pray to be saved. It is actually a quickly changing neighborhood, and I shall have some responsibility for extending the work of the Church to meet the needs of the residences and new businesses that are expanding there.

I have until August 1 to say in various ways what I cannot say in a few lines of print. Cardinal Egan officially appointed me your pastor in the tumultuous week following the attacks on September 11, 2001. Our city has undergone unimaginable changes since then, and I think it may be said that our parish has also changed greatly. I am thankful for all the blessings we have received here and for all those who have been a blessing to me. These twelve years have been a lifetime counted one way, but counted another way they have been “short as the watch that ends the night.” Instead of squeezing all my thoughts into 480 words, I shall uncharacteristically refrain from words and let my prayers thank God for all He has done.

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