Father David Boettner came to St. Thomas the Apostle in 2002 to help a parish in need of healing. It's been 7 years and a few months since his arrival. The transformation has been amazing. This community of faith and love has become a second home to me (partly because I spend a lot of time there!). This past weekend was the last time that Fr. David said Mass with us. Because I can be emotional, I wasn't sure how the "last mass" would be for me. I did cry, but what I enjoyed the most was reliving the memories.
During his homily, Fr. David talked about his first time saying mass at St. Thomas. That was also the first time that I had to altar serve by myself, and boy was I scared out of my mind. He kept asking me all of these questions, and I didn't know how to answer half of them! This nice young guy was extremely cool about it though, and he wasn't mean like some crotchety old priests have been. It was fitting to serve alongside FD once more, except this time my sister was serving with me.
He's been a chaperone for youth events, when really, who in their right mind would want to spend a weekend shuffling teenagers around? Well, he did. Sometimes he'd have to leave early, like the time some of the youth went to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Atlanta. He drove up separately in his own car so that he could both spend time with us and make it back to St. Thomas to say mass the same weekend. On Confirmation and Post-Confirmation group retreats, he'd be there leading us in prayer, teaching us a lesson, and even leading us on hikes.
During our all day summer youth program, he'd come by and visit. Because he's a very busy guy, he sometimes only had enough time to run through and say hello. Other times he would hang out for awhile. I've gone to the church office many times, and if he was there and not in a meeting (a rarity!) he'd come out and talk.
FD has a knack for finding people's gifts and talents. He also has a knack for giving people jobs and things to do where people will succeed and perhaps find their calling. When I was a sophomore, he sort of strongly but nicely suggested that I become a lector and a Eucharistic Minister. I did and couldn't thank him enough for, well, pushing me into those ministries! That summer, he asked if I would put together a video about the church's first mission trip to NPH in El Salvador. Then, he said I should go to El Salvador after my junior year. Of course I did! El Salvador and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos have now become a big part of my life. I was blessed (and thankfully asked!) to go again this summer. I was underage the first trip and unaccompanied by a parent. So when we arrived to the San Salvador airport, he pretended to be my father while we went through customs and immigration. Calling him "Dad" every now and then after the trip stuck. This year he has truly become one of my dads.
When he found out that I had never skipped a day of high school, he and my youth minister devised a plan and took me on a hike...and of course while skipping school! He even braved the small, packed, stuffy high school gym to come to my graduation.
He picks on me sometimes, but I just dish it right back to him. He advises me when I come to him with a question that I have wrestled with. He talks and listens to everyone. He calls us to be the face of God to others, and he sets a very good example on how to be that. Yes he is a priest, but he truly is a man of God. Fr. David is not just a good priest and shepherd; he is also a great friend, mentor, and father (in the parental sense of the word).
The reason I'm telling you about him and some memories is because I just always assumed that where he is now and what he has been doing would be a permanent fixture (although I subconsciously knew better than to think that!). His new assignment is just down the road from where I'll be going to college. He will be missed at St. Thomas, but lovingly welcomed to his new home.
Part of his homily talked about the Eucharist and how many times our faith community has gathered together every weekend, every Holy Day, and every sacrament in between to celebrate the Eucharist. The word eucharist means to give thanks, and that is what he did. He thanked the people of St. Thomas for the time he was given with us, for the memories, for the love. Now I would like to say, once again, thank you Father David. And thanks be to God for sending FD to us.