So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

After nearly 30 years of service in the Diocese of Joliet, first as director of the Peace and Social Justice Ministry and then for the integrated ministries of the Office for Human Dignity, the time has come for me to go. I feel the spirit beckoning me to explore fresh horizons and discover new opportunities. *

I’ve told this story before, so perhaps you’ve heard it. It bears repeating now. When I first came to Illinois, my intention was to stay a year, maybe two, long enough to gain some experience before returning east to ministry among the people of the hills of Pennsylvania and Maryland, from which I hail. But along the way, somehow the urban/suburban life of Chicagoland and the surrounding prairies became my home. I discovered a beauty here. Perhaps it does not rise up in front of you, like my hills, or cradle you, like the valleys, but the beauty is here, in the delicate prairie flowers and grasses, in the far-off horizons, and most of all, in the warmth, love, traditions, and diversity of the people who have taken me in.

During these years I have been privileged to serve four bishops and two apostolic administrators. I have been honored to work alongside you, extraordinary men and women who labor to proclaim and make manifest the Reign of God, and I’ve been humbled to be welcomed in solidarity by those considered to be on the margins of society. In truth, they are held in the very heart of God.

Over the course of these years, I have been exceedingly blessed to have always had the best staff, the greatest ministry team. Yes, as the years went by, there have been those who moved on to new callings, others to retirement, and several who passed beyond the veil. Each one, a gift to the Church, the world, and to me. I am indebted to them. If on that final day God says to me I did some good, it will only be because of these, my faithful partners in ministry.

I end my time here with nothing but gratitude.

And so, I bid you well. May God be with you always. You will forever have a place in my heart.

Your brother in Christ,

Thomas L. Garlitz

*My final day will be on or about May 1st, after which I intend to take a sabbatical to discern my future calling. I ask for your prayers that I might have clarity in how I might best serve God, God’s people, and especially the poor and vulnerable.

**The picture of edelweiss is an homage to Bishop Joseph Imesch who first welcomed me to the Church of Joliet. “Edelweiss” was his favorite song. It is also in recognition of my Swiss Mennonite heritage.

20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks and the Importance of Memory

Brian Hickey- 9/11/2021

Whenever significant public or private anniversaries in one’s lifetime come along, individuals recount the happenings of the day, particularly according to how they experienced it. For dates that commemorate events from long ago like a country’s Independence Day or somber occasions such as Holocaust Remembrance Day, we often imagine what it would have been like to live during the time of events while thinking about how it affects our reality today. Memory and remembrance hold significance in a Christian’s life when recounting Jesus’ teachings, death, and resurrection, especially during Mass when encountering the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and what it means to walk out a Eucharistic life. Now 20 years after the events on September 11, 2001, the crucial need for remembrance remains, including for the nearly 3,000 individuals of our fellow Americans killed, the many more lives upended, and as we grapple with the past month and ongoing events in Afghanistan.

Every 9/11 anniversary undoubtedly brings a range of emotions for those closest to the victims and for the generation of Americans for whom that day contains an indelible memory. For the generation of Americans with no memory of that day or were not yet born, how we remember 9/11 matters. Pope Francis said recently, “Remembering is an expression of humanity. Remembering is a sign of civilization. Remembering is a condition for a better future of peace and fraternity.” We have a responsibility to hand over those memories, firstly that of the individuals killed on 9/11/2001.

Of course, one cannot do justice in honoring all the nearly 3,000 individuals. Still, we can resist the temptation to only refer to a statistic encompassing all those beloved children of God. Some might identify with and carry the legacies of firefighters who courageously scrambled to the Twin Towers. Others might put themselves in the position of Welles Crowther and imagine if they could emulate his life-saving and heroic actions. Still, others might scroll through the thousands of names and images and remember strangers like Patricia Ann Cimaroli Massari and her unborn child. We can witness and honor their lives and express hope for a more peaceful world when we remember them.

This year’s anniversary brings another somber element with our country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, resulting in turmoil, fear, and displacement for millions of Afghans. Many Americans rightly feel distraught that the same group that harbored the 9/11 terrorists and maintained ties with Al-Qaeda sits in political power today. We must also grieve for the next generation of Afghan girls unable to receive an education and families dealing with severe economic and medical crises under a repressive regime. Certainly, our country’s efforts in the war on terror and approach to international peace have not been straightforward or beyond reproach both in strategy and results. Remembrance of 9/11 grounds us in facing the issues today.

As we all hopefully remember and reflect on that fateful day 20 years ago, let us begin principally with those whose lives were cut brutally short. We cannot begin to grasp all the ramifications for the United States and our world on 9/11/2001, even 20 years later, but we can recognize the importance of passing our 9/11 memories to those with no recollection. Doing so not only allows us to express our common humanity, but also to witness its consequences today. On this particular anniversary, we can elevate our reflections to include our suffering Afghan brothers and sisters.

Finally, we must not forget the coming together of our nation, world, and Christians and Muslims in the days following 9/11/2001. Let us still strive and cling to the hope for a world of more fraternity guided by the Prince of Peace and our love of neighbor both near and far.

-Brian Hickey is an Associate Director in the Office for Human Dignity at the Diocese of Joliet. He can be contacted at bhickey@dioceseofjoliet.org