I wish to apologize for my absence from Sacred Space Astronomy these past few weeks. The Easter season is a time that dramatically increases the workload for a priest. In addition to Holy Week and Easter Sunday, the weeks that follow are typically the time parishes will celebrate First Communion for our 2nd Grade students and Confirmation for our Sophomores. Throw in Mother’s Day and our parish FunFest and you begin to see the reason for my absence.
Sadly, there are also unanticipated moments that become a struggle for a priest, a parish, and a community. The Tuesday after Easter Sunday, one of our parish youth, Williamefipanio Hessel, went missing in the Chippewa River. Will and his friends decided, on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, to go to one of the local parks to swim. Sadly, given the higher and faster river waters due to seasonal flooding, Will disappeared while swimming. It was announced yesterday that Will was found. I would ask the Sacred Space Astronomy community to pray for Will’s family.
As pastor of the Hessel family, I have witnessed the full breadth of human emotion as I journey with them. Whether it be feelings of helplessness or the awkwardness of planning a Memorial Service while Will was missing, it is safe to say there is little that can prepare anyone for a tragedy such as this. After almost a month of praying and waiting, the news of Will being found was an odd mix of relief and grief.
The reason I share this as my reflection on the Sacred Space Astronomy blog is to reflect on one of the most basic truths about the human person: We are a Communal Creature. Yes, we have the privilege of openly sharing thoughts on Astronomy, Science, and Faith on this blog, furthering the natural desire of exploration that exists in the human heart. Too often we take these explorations for granted, at times to the point of allowing them to devolve into moments of dividing humanity instead of uniting us. Sadly, it is often when tragedy strikes, tragedy like the drowning of Will Hessel, that we take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that what unites us is far stronger than what divides us.
In almost 16 years of priesthood, times of tragedy have taught me two things: 1. The “Whys” we can ask have no concrete answers in those moments; and, 2. The first step toward allowing the answers to the “Whys” to naturally emerge come when we deepen our communal bonds of love with one another. I love writing for Sacred Space Astronomy and I love my life as a Parish Priest. As I return to share my thoughts with you weekly, my prayer is that all of us will see this Sacred Space as one that unites and not divides. May it be a place for the wondering heart to freely explore truth. And when we need the support of one another, I pray this be a place of safety where honest thoughts and feelings can be both openly shared and reverenced as necessary to further our calling to be a communal creature.
In that spirit – Thank you for being a part of Sacred Space Astronomy. And thank you for being a community that I have the privilege to be a part of and contribute too. Your contribution to this blog is sacred to me. Together, let us walk with one another in this Sacred Space.