Fr. Stephen’s Final Letter to Parishioners

As announced at all Masses on Dec. 12, 2021, our Pastor, Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, has been assigned by the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province to a new post at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York.

In lieu of any large gatherings ahead of his departure, Fr. Stephen will meet with parishioners outside the church following all Masses on Sunday, Jan. 16. Fr. Stephen will also preside over three Masses on Sunday, at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 5:30 p.m. We hope you take a moment to wish Fr. Stephen well as you leave Mass.

The friars, Deacon Ray, and parish staff of Sacred Heart wish Fr. Stephen well on this new assignment.

Fr. Stephen’s final letter to Sacred Heart parishioners:

(Printed for 1/16/21 Parish Bulletin)

Dear Sacred Heart parishioners,

Nothing makes a change in liturgical season more present for me than putting on vestments of a color that I have not worn recently. Violet announces Advent and Lent. White arrives at the end of each preparatory season with the excitement and activity of Christmas or Easter. When the calendar calls for a return to green, I feel a sense of comfort pulling a green chasuble over my head after those vestments hung untouched. Ordinary Time announces that things will return to normal. I chose “normal” intentionally recognizing how our shared understanding of its meaning has evolved over the past two years. Was “new normal” ever a turn of phrase so commonly used as it is now?

I write this — my final bulletin note — while the church is still decorated for Christmas, anticipating that when I put on green vestments for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time it will be to bid you farewell. As I mentioned earlier, this change is occurring sooner than we had anticipated, and so I am feeling mixed emotions. I am saddened to know there are things I will not get to see firsthand. However, I am eager and excited to see my brothers, led by Fr. Mike as Pastor, continuing in their ministry here. I am also grateful for the many wonderful things I have witnessed in the 16 months that I have been privileged to serve at Sacred Heart. Your accomplishments as a community of faith have been truly uplifting.

When the new friars arrived in September 2020, things were very different than they are now. Half the pews were roped off; Mass attendance was a fraction of what it is now; live streaming required a camera and monitor in front of the sanctuary making Mass look like a TV set. All of us felt less connected than we do now. Even the anxiety of life before vaccines seems like a distant memory despite less than a year having elapsed. The world is seeing another wave of illness but one that is less anxiety producing than earlier waves. We have learned how to be members of the Living Body of Christ serving others while protecting the wellbeing of all.

Together we have created new ways of service through Giving from the Heart and discovered that in giving we truly do receive. Sacred Heart has been honored for its commitment to serving the community. After many years of effort, Catholic Charities opened Tampa Hope to serve the homeless and Sacred Heart will be a part of its future success. There are great things happening in Tampa and at Sacred Heart. Although I may observe these great things from 1,200 miles away, I am confident that great things will happen.

You have likely noticed that each friar has his own style of presiding and preaching. Some of you may have noticed that I have a fondness for one of the lesser-used options for dismissal at Mass. The Roman Missal give four options:

  • Go forth, the Mass is ended.
  • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
  • Go in peace.
  • Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

I typically use the fourth option. The Rule of the Franciscans begins with these words, “The rule and life of the lesser brothers is this: To observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The Gospel is not uniquely the Franciscan rule. It is the rule for all Christians. In John 13:34, Jesus gave us a simple commandment, love one another. Sacred Heart — so aptly and providentially named — truly follows this commandment. Thank you for teaching me how to do so better.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Stephen

Our own Fr. Mike Jones, OFM will assume the role of pastor on January 17, 2022, as described in a letter from Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, the Provincial Minister for Holy Name Province, regarding Fr. Stephen’s upcoming transfer. You can read both Fr. Kevin’s letter, and the announcement from Fr. Stephen by clicking the tabs below:

Letter from Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial Minister for Holy Name Province

Letter from Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church