From the earliest beginnings of SOLT, the presence, life, and work of the lay faithful were central in the mind, heart, and vision of Fr. Jim Flanagan, our founder. He invited lay faithful, both single and married, to the Mora Valley. Today, many of our older parishioners still remember and affectionately call them “Lay Apostles,” the name used by Fr. Jim.
As a young man, a month of formation with Fr. Jim and a year of life and service with SOLT co-founder Fr. John McHugh in Belize deeply reprioritized my life. That experience of joy, living and serving as a young lay volunteer on an ecclesial family team, was central to Our Lady calling me to her Society. As I experienced Our Lord and Our Lady calling me to priesthood within the Society, I also found within my heart a call to serve lay missionaries.
This brings us to today, many years later, here in the Mora Valley, the birthplace of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. I am very grateful to our community leaders for encouraging lay missionary volunteers. When Sr. Maryam Caritas contacted me last fall to ask if I would be willing to welcome lay missionary volunteers to the Mora mission, I was elated. She asked me, “What would you have them do?” and I said, “I don’t know, but Our Lady does.” Fr. Jim gave me such certitude that the lay faithful are called to serve along with the sisters, priests and brothers of that I had no hesitation in saying yes. If there were lay missionaries ready to come, I was certain our Blessed Mother had a plan for them, which she has shown to us.
Today, we have four wonderful missionary volunteers: Nicole, Hope, Kristine, and Jared. The work of God here is in parish life, which is a work of evangelization that needs self-motivated people. The foundation of the Body of Christ is built on families and family life. We have focused the ministries and activities of these eager volunteers on that which forms this crucial foundation: youth ministry, young adult ministry, catechesis, retreats, and family activities. This work has been modest in numbers but deeply blessed. The parishioners have welcomed and wholeheartedly embraced these young people. As we move forward, we are always looking for mission oriented laity who desire to give of themselves with generous hearts.
The gift and joy of serving with these enthusiastic young men and women reminds me of a statement that Fr. Jim made in my early days, “When I was young I didn’t think I needed anyone, and now I need everyone.” I need these young people on our ecclesial family team. They bring joy, eagerness, a renewed zeal, and prayer as well as provide generous service. It has been a tremendous year serving with these lay missionaries, and I look forward to many more missionary volunteers as we move forward.
Fr. Dale Craig, SOLT was ordained to the sacred priesthood for SOLT in 1997. He began serving at St. Gertrude’s in March 2021.