Tryon parish welcomes its new shepherd
Father Eckert installed as pastor at St. John the Baptist Church
TRYON — A beaming Father John Eckert was installed as pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Tryon July 22 during a Mass filled with laughter and joyful worship.
The small church was filled to capacity with parishioners, guests and well-wishers to welcome Father Eckert in his first assignment as pastor. Father Eckert formerly served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro.
During a Sunday Mass rich in Scriptural references to spiritual fatherhood and Jesus the Good Shepherd, Father Eckert took an oath of fidelity to the Church and to Bishop Peter Jugis, and he publicly signed documents officially taking over as pastor of the parish.
At the start of the installation rite, Father Eckert made the Profession of Faith. With an emotional tremble in his clear voice, Father Eckert stood at the altar in front of the congregation and prayed the words of the Nicene Creed. Then he continued, in part vowing, "With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in God's Word, written or handed down in Tradition, and proposed by the Church, whether in solemn judgment or in the ordinary and universal Magisterium, as divinely revealed ...
"I, John J. Eckert, on assuming the office of pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, promise that I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church, whether in the words I speak or the way I act. ..."
With those words and with signatures put on the official documents at the altar, Father Eckert took canonical possession of the 100-year-old parish, becoming its 25th pastor.
Providentially, the readings of the day spoke to the role of pastor as shepherd: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:13-18, and Mark 6:30-34.
From Jeremiah: "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord."
From the Responsorial Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."
From St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians: Jesus "came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."
And, lastly, from the Gospel of Mark: "When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things."
In his homily, Bishop Jugis explained that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God's promise to personally shepherd His people. Likewise, a pastor must model himself on the Good Shepherd.
Bishop Jugis then described the duties of the pastor in supporting our universal call to holiness. The pastor's mission is threefold, Bishop Jugis noted: he must teach, sanctify and govern his parishioners.
"You are the object of his entire ministry," he told those gathered at Mass.
The most important aspect of Father Eckert's mission is to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – to nourish parishioners with the Body and Blood of Christ so that they may grow stronger in faith and then go out into the world to spread the Gospel, he said.
The many duties of a pastor may seem daunting, Bishop Jugis noted, for he is ultimately responsible for helping his parishioners attain eternal life – nurturing, teaching and preparing the faithful to reach out and grasp Jesus' outstretched hand so that they may reach heaven.
He then encouraged everyone with a smile: "So listen to your pastor."
Following his homily, Bishop Jugis walked with Father Eckert around the church, pointing out the places where the new pastor would exercise his duties as spiritual father to administer the sacraments and shepherd the faithful: the front door – providing a comforting "green pasture" for people to come and pray; the baptismal font and the confessional – administering the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, bringing new members into the faith just as a father begets a child, then guiding and teaching them as they grow; the tabernacle and the altar – celebrating Mass to feed people's faith; and the presidential chair – symbolizing Father Eckert's role as leader and teacher.
Because of the standing-room-only crowd at Mass inside the small church, the attending Knights of Columbus sat just outside the confessional. As Bishop Jugis and Father Eckert approached the place where Father Eckert would administer the sacrament of reconciliation, the congregation erupted in laughter as Bishop Jugis quipped, "I see you already have a line waiting!'
At the end of Mass Father Eckert thanked everyone in Tryon for their warm welcome, and for the members who came up from Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro, where he had served as parochial vicar for two years.
Father Eckert joked that in high school he had been named "Mr. Congeniality," "so it only seems appropriate that now I have the honor of being the pastor in what's dubbed 'The Friendliest Town in the South.'"
He also thanked Bishop Jugis, then he asked everyone to pray for the bishop, because he "has to do one of the most difficult things that any bishop of our diocese does: he has to leave Tryon!"
The laughter and the joy expressed throughout the installation Mass was also evident in the choir's musical selections. Hymns included "O God Beyond All Praising" and "Ode to Joy."
"The last hymn, 'Ode to Joy,' is how my heart feels today," said parishioner Ann Marie Rowe.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
Located just about a mile away from the North Carolina state line, St. John the Baptist Church was founded in 1911 by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey. Read about St. John the Baptist Church's 100th anniversary in pdf viewer below.
St. John the Baptist Church recently underwent a spectacular renovation by parishioners and former pastor, Father Patrick Winslow. Read more about the work, and see before and after photos, here
- Next >>
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy