GRANTS PASS — St. Anne Parish here welcomed Archbishop Alexander Sample last night at his third and final regional welcome Mass across the Archdiocese of Portland.
Hundreds gathered in the church for Mass followed by a reception in the parish hall, where parishioners had a chance to meet their new archbishop.
The church had been preparing for weeks for the visit. Liturgy committees were held and choirs joined together to create a 30 voice choral. The hum of activity swiftly turned to reverent silence when the Knights of Columbus solemnly took their places and, moments later, the largest choir St. Anne’s had seen in years burst into song. Escorted by fourteen priests and two deacons, Archbishop Sample processed in to the Mass.
When Archbishop Sample was introduced applause spontaneously broke out. Later, he flattered and charmed the congregation, commenting on the great beauty of the surrounding country. He remarked that the beauty of the Southern Vicariate was so great that he had brought his own mother to show her God’s glorious creation. This, he admitted, was a risk, as he was “afraid of what she would say when it came time for the reception.” The congregation, which was charmed by his admission, broke out in applause when he addressed one of the greatest hurts experienced by this farthest vicariate, the four hours drive time and distance that often leaves Southern Oregon churches scrambling for support, training resources, and acknowledgement.
“I am very much aware and conscious that the archdiocese is much bigger than the city of Portland. I do not want you to feel isolated and disconnected if you are far away from where the archbishop lives," said the archbishop. "I don’t want you to feel that way… I hope to be pastor to you as to anyone in this archdiocese.”
His homily continued with an inspiring message of faith and hope. He called each person present to personal conversion and prayer.
“Now is not a time to worry! Now is not the time to fret! Now is time for confidence in the Gospel!" he said. "Now is the time for new beginnings. Now is the time for new life. Now is the time for the New Evangelization!”
Afterwards, parishioners responses to the new archbishop were positive. Words such as ‘wonderful’, ‘funny’, and ‘inspiring’ were being spoken. The reception was held in the parish hall where the archbishop and his mother were the stars of the show.
It was at this time that a young adult, Becky Staudenraus, would reflect what seemed to be a general consensus, “He’s so cool. I like him. I like him. He’s going to some awesome things!”