A Letter from Deacon Greg

“Thank You for Filling This Church with Faith—and Filling My Heart with Gratitude”

by Deacon Greg Kandra

One Sunday in the spring of 1998, I was minding my own business, sitting in the back pew at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs for Sunday Mass, when an old guy in a plaid jacket tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a wicker basket and whispered, “Hey, can you help with the collection? Thanks.”

Well, okay. Soon I was doing it every Sunday. The rest is history.

Now, Siobhain and I are about to write another chapter in that history. In early July, we’ll be departing Forest Hills and retiring to Florida (suburban Orlando, to be precise).

I make my living with words, whether in print or in the pulpit, and I’ve logged tens of thousands of them in my years here. But I wanted today to add two more, to everyone at OLQM: Thank you.

Thank you for all these Sundays. Days filled with wonder and joy, persistence and hope, music and prayer. Thank you for praying with me and for me. Thank you for the immeasurable privilege of being able to baptize your children, witness your marriages and bring to so many the Body of Christ. Lord, I am not worthy.

Thank you for all the Lenten Fridays when we walked the Way of the Cross together, and the Easter Vigils when I proclaimed that Christ had risen and I looked out to see a church ablaze with the light of a thousand candles—your light, your hope, your love for the faith we share.

Thank you for Palm Sunday processions and St. Patrick’s Day dances and all the raffles and Living Rosaries and all those breathtaking moments every Christmas Eve, year after year, when the church is hushed and the lights are dimmed and the story begins again. Once in royal David’s city.…

Thank you for filling this church with faith—and filling my heart with gratitude.

I often tell deacons on retreat, “Know this: there’s a reason God called you when he did, just as there’s a reason he called me at a particular moment, in a particular place.” He called me in 2002 when I was in Forest Hills, in this parish, at a time when I was working as a writer for CBS News. I never planned the journey that followed. But God had things to teach me here—lessons about love and loyalty, about community, about holding on to what we have been given and then passing it on. Lessons about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and live the Gospel in the world.

For all these lessons, I had the best teachers: wonderful priests and pastors—but most of all, I had you. Thank you for all you have taught me.

For those who are wondering: Siobhain and I don’t have a permanent home yet; we are renting a condo in Davenport for a few months while we house-hunt. We have had a timeshare in central Florida for many years, and so we know the area (and, yes, we’ve already bought our Annual Passes for Disney World). I will continue writing books and newspaper columns and traveling the country to give retreats and parish missions. Other than that, we look forward to a quieter, warmer, simpler way of life—one with palm trees instead of pigeons.

And no, I’m not retiring from the diaconate. Part of the next few months will be spent sitting in the last pew at different parishes, seeing if there are places that could use a deacon from Queens who likes to preach and who can type 90 words a minute. Maybe there’s some church that needs someone to help take up the collection on Sunday.

In the meantime, Siobhain and I look forward to writing the next chapter and going wherever God leads us.

Please pray for us and know we will be praying for you, with thanksgiving and with love.

The road stretches before us. A new adventure awaits. Together, in the words of one of my favorite hymns, let’s “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” Thank you and God bless you!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: You can still find Greg online at The Deacon’s Bench with Deacon Greg Kandra]