(Letter from Deacon “Rusty” Keith Skinner)
To My Parish Family and Friends,
I cannot begin to tell you all how much your love, support and prayers have meant to me and my girls, both over this past year as well as the nineteen years we have been a part of this loving community. You have made the unbearable possible to live through. Over the past year I have learned so very much about the generosity and selfless love friends can show you. I have also learned a lot about myself. Having fallen in love at first sight (yes, it does happen) and been married to Wanda since she was twenty and I twenty-two, we shared a great love, life and everything together. We were rarely apart throughout our thirty-six years of marriage. It is that presence, someone to talk to and share the small moments of a day with, that I miss so terribly much. This brings me to the reason for this letter.
When I became a Permanent Deacon, there were conditions that I was fully aware of and agreed to before I was ordained. One of the conditions was that if my wife pre-deceased me I would not remarry and would live a celibate life. It was one of things that I agreed to which, at the time, was easy because either I was supposed to die before her (because that’s what men are supposed to do), or I would be ninety when she died. As we know, neither of these happened.
After much prayer and reflection, I have come to the realization that living alone is a life I cannot live. I am removing myself from public ministry and have begun the process to be released from my Diaconal promises, with the hope of not being alone any longer. With that, there are conditions [given by our Bishop], the hardest of which is that I must leave all of you and go to a parish other than St. Vincent’s. I will miss all of you terribly, but be assured that my faith, our faith and the Church that has sustained me, will continue to do so. God has set a new path before me and I do not know where it will lead, but He always has something for me to do, and time will tell. I ask that you continue to pray for Wendy, Amy, Cindy and myself as I move forward in this new life. You have been, are now, and will always be in my heart and in my prayers.
Deacon Rusty Skinner
(Commentary from Monsignor Tom)
It’s not easy to see and say “good-byes” to and from Deacon Rusty Skinner. In the Gospel story of the Good Shepherd, what is significant is the good shepherd’s attitude toward the sheep. What is showcased is the other-centeredness of the good shepherd, who seeks what is good for the sheep, in contrast to the self-centeredness of the intruder, who seeks to profit from the flock. It is important for us to take note of these opposed attitudes, because, just as each one of us is our “brother’s keeper,” so we, too, are our brothers’ and sisters’ shepherds, whether we seek or like to be that or not. In our daily interactions with others we “lead” them by what we say and do, and, most of all, by what we are. Because of this, it’s essential to foster in our hearts the other-centeredness characteristic of a good shepherd. We need to enter our interactions with others not with the question, “What’s in it for me?”, but rather with the question, “What’s in me for it?”. This is other-centeredness at work. This is the work that Deacon Rusty has been doing with and for us over these past years of his ministry.
I shall miss his presence assisting me in the life and ministry of our parish. He has reached out so well in so many ways to so many people, drawing them to Christ and teaching them what it is to be of service to God’s people. His role in the RCIA, his leadership in the Pastoral Council, his service to our Stewardship Council, his assistance on the altar, his thoughtful homilies and his generous contributions to the overall welfare and good of our parish have made a very marked difference at SVF. Not born into the Catholic faith, he made the journey toward it some years ago with the help and encouragement of his devoted wife, Wanda, who assisted him in his work and was always a mirror and reflection of God’s love for her. She passed her gifts on to her husband and family, and they’ve received it with love and much enthusiasm.
I pray that he will be happy in his new choices: of parish life and involvement, of upcoming new friendships and any future companionship. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job1: 21b)