On the evening of February 17, 2018, Sacred Heart Parish celebrated a “surprise” 10th anniversary for Fr. Shay Auerbach, SJ, as pastor of the only Jesuit parish in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Taking advantage of his absence (he was celebrating his mother’s eighty-fifth birthday in Hawaii), the parish had only two weeks to make their surprise celebration a reality. It was a true community effort, just as Fr. Shay would like it.
The regularly scheduled Saturday 5:30 p.m. Mass in English was transformed into a bi-lingual celebration with over 250 participants. The Children’s Choir shared the mike with a combined adult bilingual choir. Fr. Shay delivered the homily.
Fr. Shay Auerbach, SJ, holds his 10th anniversary portrait alongside Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ, director of leadership at the Sacred Heart Center.
After Mass, over four hundred people packed Sacred Heart Center’s gymnasium and waited in the dark, with lit candles, for Fr. Shay to arrive. The choir sang and a reflection on his ten years was shared. Then came the food and video messages of thanks, friendship and love. The meal was an international buffet, each dish prepared by grateful, loving parishioners. As someone commented, “White folks were enjoying the tamales while many Latinos munched on pizza. African-Americans savored the pozole soup while Filipinos sampled all the available salads.” A long line formed to offer Fr. Shay personal words of thanks. A portrait, drawn by Alfonso Perez of the Sacred Heart Center staff, was unveiled and presented.
A loving, grateful, multi-racial community was able to realize its dream of thanking Fr. Shay Auerbach for helping them become who they are.