I have attended a fair amount of funerals and am always moved by them as, again, I'm sure we all are.
What struck me today was the presence of my friends from my years participating in Diocesan Youth Ministry, which is how I know Ronnel. It wasn't a surprise that we were all there- that is how we knew each other, after all. What I was struck by was how we truly were like family. So much so in this case, that some of our friends who are also youth ministers were actually pallbearers.
It shouldn't surprise me, though, that we are a family because of our ministry. We have spent many long nights staying up late to put together retreats and service camps to help minister to teens. We have spent time together praying at Mass and participating in His Sacraments. This is what the Church was founded on: the ministry and prayer of the apostles. We each go out and do our own work during the days and nights, but when we come together, we are community. Despite our broken and very different personalities, we are the Church as how it was designed by Christ to be- ministers and community.
Ronnel embraced this role as a minister so much more than many of us. It was evident by that showing at his funeral Mass today. We had even teased him not but 2 weeks ago at a Workcamp meeting about his "Rain Man"-esque ability to know random facts about the Diocese.
As a single person, sometimes I wonder about family. I obviously have one back in Ohio who have been excellent examples of Christ's love to me. But I know for sure now that the Church is my family. If I didn't already know it before, I saw it there today as all of us came together for Ronnel: teens he had worked with, other adult volunteers from his program, youth ministers, priests...it was a true Church family.
It is moments like this in which God reminds me that though the road is hard sometimes, His Church is worth it. My strongest relationships and most powerful experiences have been from meeting people and investing time in His Church.
Thank you, Ronnel, for reminding us of this. And please give a good shout-out to Jesus for us!
I just pray that you all can have similar experiences of Christ through people, relationships, and His Sacraments. It is no coincidence that when we are united through Him at a retreat, or a service trip, or at funeral Mass we feel close to those around us. That is because we are living community as God really intended: giving of ourselves with the goal of uniting to Him. And we can do this in many of our relationships if we choose to do so.