PFJ WELCOMES FR. ED MARTIN
It might come as a surprise to those who have only listened to Bishop Dewane and read his correspondence, but as parishioners our animosity to Fr. Gates has been greatly exaggerated.
With the risk that it might seem disingenuous, PFJ does wish Fr. Gates the best in his future endeavors, sincerely wishing that he gets a parish assignment suitable to his gifts and talents. From the very start of his time at St. Isabel he was being used (abused) by his Bishop with a personal agenda that included the destruction of a single priest’s life and the total upset of an entire parish community. Even today, the Bishop is trying to deflect responsibility for the upset of the last three years on anyone but himself, but the reality that he has to live with is that he is entirely responsible for the perpetual upset to ecclesial communion, for the destruction of Fr. Christopher’s reputation, for the divisiveness that has torn apart a vibrant parish, and for the lies and half-truths on which his crusade is founded.
In his letter to the parish community announcing the end of Fr. Gates’ tenure at St. Isabel (and a letter which no doubt will not be permanently ensconced on the St.Isabel web site), Bishop Dewane says the following:
“With the above announcement, alIow me to thank Father Joseph Gates for his Service to the FaithfuI of St. Isabel Parish. In expressing appreciation to Fr. Gates, I acknowIedge that this has not been an easy assignment. Those who have come to know, respect and appreciate Father, will be displeased with this announcement. However, this is being done with the best interests of Father Gates and is done with his approvaI. Please know that Father Gates will be receiving another assignment within the Diocese of Venice in the very near future.
It is asked that all Parishioners of St. IsabeI Parish would kindIy welcome Father Ed Martin to the community of Sanibel and please keep him in pray as he assumes his responsibilities as your Parish Administrator. We are grateful to Father for accepting this difficult assignment.”
Bishop Dewane’s assessment that Fr. Gates’ assignment “has not been easy” is correct, but it could have been easier. It was Fr. Gates who took a situation that demanded compassion, with cautious and thoughtful action, and created the problems and environment that resulted. Had the temporary administrator come into the “situation” with a genuine sensitivity to what the parishioners were experiencing; had he received good and sound advice from the parish staff and bishop’s staff; had he seen himself as a caretaker and not a creator; had he not seen it as his responsibility to recraft the parish into something it had not been; had the bishop been interested in the facts instead of his own personal agenda; had the bishop taken time to meet with Fr. Christopher and the parishioners – if any of these things had happened, the assignment would have been easier.
The Bishop is also correct in suggesting to Father Ed Martin that he has accepted a “difficult assignment.” It will be difficult to piece back together a terribly broken parish community, and to heal the wounds so carelessly and unnecessarily made. But our advice to Fr. Martin is to come into his new position with an open mind, which may mean ignoring everything the Bishop and his minions have told him, for they do not always tell the truth. Our pastor, Fr. Christopher, has been demonized by Bishop Dewane, and our faithfulness as a parish has been devalued. As Parishioners For Justice we are first and foremost parishioners, who long for what was best about our faith community, and who yearn for the ecclesial peace that only God can give. If we are treated like outcasts, if our concerns are ignored until they just dissolve, then Fr. Martin will, indeed, have a difficult task. Our hearts are open to your arrival Fr. Martin. We ask that your heart be open to us and our concern for justice.