Letter to St. Barbara Parish Community

Dear Friends,

To introduce myself as your new pastor, I thought I’d write to you heart to heart before meeting each of you in person, which I look forward to doing over the next many months.

At various times of change in my life, I’ve recalled some lines from my favorite poet, Denise Levertov. She writes:

I thought I was growing wings -­
it was a cocoon.
I thought, now is the time to step
into the fire —
it was deep water …

In other words, the future does not always bring us what we expect, but it does offer us a chance to go deeper and be part of something new.

As an example, these words were very much on my heart as I prepared to profess my solemn vows as a Franciscan friar, which I did right here in the Mission Church on August 13, 1994. Father Joe Chinnici, as Provincial Minister, received my vows that day, and my brothers John Hardin and Richard McManus stood by my side. Later, Monica Orozco’s mother took a picture of us standing on the front steps. (Needless to say, this was long before Monica ever imagined she would one day be our Executive Director here at the Mission!) Whatever we thought that long ago day, we had no idea what blessings lay ahead, much less that we would find ourselves reunited.

As I begin my journey as your pastor, I come back to these same lines of poetry and hear the poet meditating, not knowing what she’s getting into. And yet the images of transformation (cocoon) and baptism (deep water) are so compelling -for me anyway -as they represent a summons to a deeper, fuller life. These images call us to a creative power beyond ourselves.

To say it simply, serving as pastor at Old Mission Santa Barbara is for me an exciting prospect that was definitely not on my radar. And yet I hear a summons to join you in learning and being part of something new at this historic and sacred place, at this important moment in the life of our world, our Church, and our Franciscan family. Most important, I wrestle with the lessons of mercy in this Sunday’s readings. Jesus teaches forgiveness as he invites us to an unsettling change in perspective -all the more challenging, in light of the recent acts of vandalism in front of the Mission.

Wings, cocoons, fire, and water -the unsettling dynamism of life in all its dimensions is matched for us as disciples of Jesus by the confounding power (dunamis) of the Gospel. St. Francis humbly embraced that power, as did the community of Mission Santa Barbara from day one, back in December, 1786. It is the power of merciful love, to be discovered, proclaimed and lived anew by each generation. What a privilege it is to share this holy task with you as we begin our ministry together!

Peace and all good be yours,

Fr. Dan Lackie OFM