On Saturday July 6, one of FutureChurch's cofounders, the Rev. Paul Hritz, journeyed to his long awaited and much deserved eternal home in the heart of God.
Fr. Paul was the pastor of the Community of St. Malachi, one of FutureChurch's two founding parishes. He was also a friend, mentor and spiritual guide to FutureChurch's founding director, (that would be me).
Paul (as he preferred to be called) was a guide to thousands. Though personally reserved and perhaps somewhat shy, Paul was a gifted preacher. He skillfully found a way to reach every person in the pews with meticulously crafted homilies that never went longer than 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, he said, people lost interest. But you wouldn't know that from the hundreds who stood two deep in the aisles every Sunday at 11:00 Mass. If you didn't arrive before 10:45 you wouldn't find a seat.
Paul's weekday homilies were equally compelling. He was a consummate teacher. Those who came to daily Mass could count on learning something new about scripture, Church history or some saint's life. And more often than not, that "something" challenged us to serve the poor and work for God's reign of justice and peace in our own day.
His close friend, Fr. Jim O'Donnell, said that more than any other person, Paul Hritz brought the Second Vatican Council to the Cleveland diocese. His courses for sisters at St. John College, made accessible the theological insights of the great Vatican II theologians such as Karl Rahner and John Courtney Murray. And the sisters carried that Vatican II vision back to Catholic grade schools, high schools and parish education programs.
Father Paul wisely guided many gifted lay people into diverse leadership roles. He had a way of recognizing and encouraging innovation and new ministries on behalf of the Church. It was Father Paul who guided our fledgling Malachi church reform committee to meet with Fr. Lou Trivison and the parish council at the Church of the Resurrection, whose resolution on the priest shortage is FutureChurch's founding document.
And it was Paul who encouraged me to work full time for FutureChurch and open our first office. I seriously doubt that I would have trusted my own discernment without his full-hearted affirmation and enthusiasm.
Paul was a brilliant man who had a heart for the marginalized both in society and in the Church. His pastoral sensitivity and passion on behalf of the reign of God is an important source of the deep springs of spirituality that undergird FutureChurch's mission and vision. He validated for us that God's call and gifts are poured out on all the faithful, not just priests and nuns. And those gifts must be nurtured into full flower for the renewing life of the Church if we are to be witnesses to God's love in the world.
If Fr. Lou Trivison was the public face of the priestly founders of FutureChurch, then Fr. Paul Hritz was the private face.
"Behold a great priest who in his day served God. And there was not found the like of him who kept the law of the Most High."(Antiphon from the common of confessors in the Liturgy of the Hours)
Fr. Paul's funeral Mass is tomorrow, July 11 at 11:00 at St. Malachi Parish 2349 Washington St. in Cleveland.
To view a warm remembrance published today in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, click here
Sent with much love, Sr. Chris Schenk CSJ, FutureChurch Executive Director.