In the Gospel of Luke we read that Jesus kicked off his public ministry with the following words in a synagogue… "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor, liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind." Fittingly, this was the text from which Father Don preached his last Sunday sermon on January 27th.
The good padre was a dear friend to all of us, a great priest to many of us, and to me he was all of that plus a great mentor. Some of you know that I am fond of saying that everything I need to know about being a priest and ministering to people, I have learned in Key West, and I owe a great deal of that to Don Sullivan. I have learned more about living ministry, compassion, forgiveness, listening to people, of being an incarnational presence in my time here than I did all those years living in Manhattan. In many ways, Father was living embodiment of that saying by St Francis, "Preach the Gospel…use words if you must."
I have no doubt that Don truly loved all of us and this parish as much as we loved him. How many times did we come to him and vent our frustrations or cry on his shoulder and he would tell us "Darlin’, its going to be OK. It’s in God’s hands." Don also really loved Key West. You could tell from even little things like painting his big toes red for Pentecost or saying that he is only going to leave town when they put him in a box. Father, we love you so much that we got not just one box for you to make your journey but two.
If the padre were able to talk to us today, I think he would tell us to keep on loving each other, to show each other that same spirit of compassion, forgiveness and generosity that he showed all of us…and to do it with grace and style. To the parish, I think he would also want us to be stubborn like we all know he could be stubborn. To hold on and to continue the work of being a community called by God to this place and even in the face of uncertainty. To remember we are a people whose faith allows us to proclaim "To your people O Lord life is changed, not ended."
Much like we recall Jesus commandment "Love one another as I have loved you" and Jesus promise that he will "never leave us or forsake us," let us remember what the good Padre told many of us. "Darlin’ … it’s going to be OK."