Coming Full Circle: Fr Willem Klaver MHM at Installation Mass Harlem

At the end of this special Installation Mass, I would like to say a few words to all of you.

First of all, it is a great honor for me to be the new Pastor of this amazing and wonderful Parish of St Charles Borromeo, Resurrection and All Saints and to serve people of all colors here in Harlem and beyond. I would like to thank the faithful of this great and diverse parish for their warm welcome and support. It is in a way a daunting task for me to be walking in the footsteps of men like Msgr William McCann, Msgr Cornelius Drew, Fr Lawrence Lucas, Msgr Wallace Harris, Fr Jack Meehan, Bishop Emerson John Moore and Fr Gregory Chisholm, just to name a few.

As Mill Hill Missionaries, in a way, it is for us coming full circle as out of concern for the oppressed and marginalized, our Founder Cardinal Herbert Vaughan saw the need to start with the permission of the Pope our First Mill Hill Mission in the United States of America among African Americans in Baltimore in 1871. At that time, Herbert Vaughan and four Mill Hill Missionaries were welcomed by Bishop Spalding in Baltimore. By 1892, 16 of Vaughan’s missionaries were working in different missions in the United States. And remarkably, the first African-American priest to be ordained in the United States, on American soil, in Baltimore Cathedral was a Mill Hill Missionary by the name of Charles Uncles in 1891.  As a fruit of that apostolate, a new Missionary Society known as the Josephites started in 1893, working exclusively among African Americans.

Knowing our history, I would like to thank Bishop Whalen and His Eminence Cardinal Dolan for their trust and for helping us as Mill Hill Missionaries to get back to where we started. That this happens today, at this time in history, makes me wonder: why now? And frankly I am not sure if I have the answer.

But what I can say is that Cardinal Vaughan’s first love for African Americans was genuine. His desire was not only to work among African Americans but also to establish a missionary college in the United States which might train African-Americans to return as missionaries to Africa. However, travelling through the United States, what he saw of the treatment of African Americans by white Catholics truly shocked him. As our American Mill Hill historian present here Fr Bob O’Neill wrote: ‘He had not realized the “intensity” of the dislike by white Americans’. We could say things have changed greatly, culminating into, for example the first American black president in history, the first African-American Cardinal in our Church and recently the reception of the first black woman on the Supreme Court. But at the same time, we also see how much we are divided as Society and in our Church and how racism manifests itself in all kinds of forms and continues often unopposed. The loud cry of “Black Lives Matter” after the killing of George Floyd can only be understood when we know our history and are in touch with its shadows. As Sr Thea Bowman shared a sentiment still prevalent among many in the most recent documentary “Going home like a shooting star”, she described from her heart what it means to be Black and Catholic in the Church when she sung in front of the United States Bishop’s Conference in 1989 the song with the words: Sometimes I feel like a motherless child – as a child feeling motherless, being neglected.  

Dear friends, as the Parish of St Charles Borromeo, Resurrection and All Saints, we are reminded on this World Mission Sunday, in the face of all kinds of painful realities, to continue to live our Vision and to partake in the Mission of the Church with joy and boldness by being witnesses of Christ in word and deed. I believe everything we have here at this parish is the fruit of a Vision that God has spoken to this faith community. If we have Vision of where we are going, it will keep us focused when the distractions of the world want to grab and paralyze us and make us react. God gave us a Vision of what the world should look like which is one of love and justice, mercy, dignity, respect and freedom. Looking at the political environment in our nation, even more difficult times might lie ahead of us, with more efforts to silence our voices, to take away voting rights, an increase in poverty, etc.

My friends of St Charles Borromeo and Resurrection, let us never lose our Vision. Let us always nourish our Vision with praise, worship and word and make it keep growing because we want to see the Vision that God gave us. Yes, the Vision that you have seen is on the way. Please, let the Church say: Amen.

And so, my friends, thanks so much for my first ever Installation Mass; thanks so much Bishop Whalen for presiding so gracefully over this Mass, for your preaching and for all your prayers and support; thanks so much for all the wonderful people from St Charles Borromeo and from Resurrection who worked so hard under the leadership of Deborah Garner and Michele Turnquest to make today a Blessing for all of us. Thanks so much to Annie Thomas and her team for decorating so beautifully our Church. Thanks so much to all of you involved in so many different ministries as has been summed up on the back page of the program for today and all of you who are here from our parish with your prayers and support. Thanks so much to our Gospel choirs for your praise and worship during this Mass. You never disappoint. Excellent. Thanks so much to all our dedicated Parish Staff who have helped me to settle and to get to know my way. Thanks so much to our senior priest Fr Tom Fenlon, Fr Oliver Offer, our three Permanent Deacons Radcliffe (by the way, the most senior among us!), Deacons Beckford and Hodge (today’s Master of Ceremony) for introducing me to our Parish and helping me to get started and to Fr Bryan Massingale for your great support. I really do appreciate. Thanks so much to all of you who are our guests, from near and far, first of all: my brother Jan & his wife Mariette from The Netherlands, my Mill Hill confreres from Hartsdale, White Plains, Skaneateles, Ireland, including our Vicar General Fr Gerry Hasty from our Headquarters in London, my fellow priests from North and South Manhattan Deaneries and our Central Harlem Cluster, my confreres from the Episcopalian Church Rev Robert Griffth and Rev Gawain de Leeuw, all my friends from St Margaret of Cortona and St Gabriel Parish in Riverdale and of course from St John the Evangelist and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in White Plains. You all made me whom I am today, and I learned so much from you. And at last, a big Thank You to all other friends who are with us here today. Thank You. Muchas Gracias a todos ustedes. Thank YOU.

God bless you ALL

May invite you all for a light dinner after the end of this Mass downstairs in the Auditorium and a great Thank You to all who have prepared this meal for us today. Bon appetite!

Los invito a todos a una cena ligera después del final de esta Misa abajo en el Auditorio y muchas gracias a todos los que prepararon esta comida para nosotros hoy. ¡Buen provecho!

Similar Posts