Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A TRIBUTE TO FATHER LARRY VOELKER

Father Larry Voelker, pastor of Holy Cross Parish on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis for the past decade, died last week.  He was a friend.  For six years, I was part of a weekly breakfast table fellowship with Larry and a handful of fellow Protestant pastors who shared urban church challenges.  He consented to serve on the Board of Directors of Horizon House, the homeless day center I directed.  Larry was also a spiritual director to me, listening carefully, attending to my journey and offering gentle guidance.

Farewell, Father Larry.

Thank you for sharing part of your journey with me, with us.

Your brokenness and inwardness and intelligence and humor and faithfulness linger with me.

That you embraced the parish in which you were assigned for the closing chapters of your service—a sometimes troubling inner-city neighborhood—still speaks volumes to me of your faith and sense of vocation.

I will cherish the book you loaned me years ago (which I never returned), titled When Faithfulness is the Bottom Line. I think it reflects your witness.

Thanks, again, for making Tuesday morning breakfast at Brother Juniper’s on Mass Avenue a priority all those years. I do not know if the rest of us contributed anything to you, but you blessed us.

I recall you saying that you made hundreds of decisions each week and not all of them were the correct ones, but that when you erred, you always tried to do so on the side of compassion.

I recollect the numerous times in conversations that you shared what the Abbot at Gethsemane Abbey told you: “There really is only one sin. It is to forget that I am a child of God.”

That you memorized and recited the full Gospel text before your homily each Sunday morning inspired me to try to do the same.

I marvel that you invited me to preach the morning sermon at Holy Cross at a time in which church authorities were making moves to limit the pulpit to their own ordained.

I laugh again at your stories about riding with Indianapolis police officers on night patrol. When a parishioner picked up for propositioning an undercover cop during a prostitution sting saw you in the squad car, he said, “No, Father Larry, not you, too!” During another prostitution sting you overheard a perp declare, “I should have known it was a cop; she had her front teeth.”

I consider anew your response to me when, while serving as Executive Director of Horizon House, I shared with you that I was thinking about returning to pastoral ministry: “Why do you need validation from the church for your servant leadership in the community?”

Your witness rings true and lingers with me and many others. We’re grateful for your journey and that it made a difference in ours.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this "eulogy" of "good words" learned from what was clearly a person who embodied and reflected Christ to and for many. I, too - as a result of these words, have been shaped by his life.

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