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.