[The following letter was originally published to announce the appointment of a Vicar General position at Saint Matthew Church. While that position no longer exists, the letter may prove valuable reading for background and history of some of the ministers, both lay and ordained, at Saint Matthew Church.]
Greetings to all the brothers, sisters, and friends of Saint Matthew Ecumenical Catholic Church!
It has been my privilege and pleasure to have served as your pastor from the beginning of the founding of our parish community in November of 1985. In the first few years I did this as a volunteer minister for the parish community, but the pastor of Saint Matthew Church became a paid position in the summer of 1996. I have served in this position to the present day.
Early on I realized that the pastoral needs of Saint Matthew Church exceeded the abilities of any one person, that the job of a parish pastor was bigger than a job a single person could fulfill. Therefore, it became necessary for me in my capacity as your pastor to seek the assistance of other ministers both lay and ordained. In February of 1986, Kathryn Tuma joined us as our first Business Office Manager and so began the formation of our Parish Staff, which would continue over the next 30 years. The addition of other ministers followed. Providentially, we have always had an abundance of lay and ordained ministers at Saint Matthew Church whom I could turn to for assistance. When we started an outreach ministry to Hispanic Americans I called upon Fr. Ben Madriaga to be my first Associate Pastor to oversee the Hispanic ministry of our parish. He served with distinction in that role until 1997 and was followed by our second Associate Pastor, Fr. Fernando Olivera, who served through 2004. After the departure of Fr. Fernando, Fr. Arturo Querijero became our third Associate Pastor for the Hispanic ministry of our parish. In 2015 I appointed the Reverend Jetty Van den Berghe to be a second Associate Pastor overseeing the children’s education ministry, youth ministry, visitation ministry, and women’s pastoral ministry. With the help of these two associate pastors, the Parish Council, and others, I am pleased to say that we have been able to provide adequate pastoral care for the people of our parish community. The associate pastors have always served with distinction at the pleasure of the pastor. The pastor delegated specific duties and responsibilities to each associate pastor. The particular duties and responsibilities given to them. However, the ministry of an associate pastor is not limited to these particular duties and responsibilities.
Since my recent illness, as a result of two strokes and brain surgery, these two associate pastors, along with the Parish Council and other parish clergy, have been able to continue the pastoral work of our church at Saint Matthew. Now I am ready to return to my duties as your full-time pastor and so, with the continued support of two associate pastors, Fr. Arturo Querijero and Mother Jetty Van den Berghe, along with the Parish Council and the other clergy of Saint Matthew Church, the Business Office Manager (Kathryn Tuma); the Minister of Music (Mirella Morra-Hickman); and the Lay Ministry Teams, I will be able to continue in the pastoral ministry of our parish faith community. To assist me further in my pastoral responsibilities I am appointing Fr. Bala Madan to act as my personal pastoral assistant. He will act as my caregiver as I continue to recover my physical health. Fr. Bala is my constant companion and meets with me every day. He will also provide transportation and general assistance in my pastoral duties. Moreover, Fr. Bala will be my voice, my eyes, my hands, and my feet. As such he will speak for me. Therefore, I am giving him a title from our long Catholic tradition, vicar general. A vicar general is one who acts and speaks on behalf of the bishop, and with the support of your Parish Council we are able to pay Fr. Bala a small salary for his pastoral assistance. Henceforth, Fr. Bala will become the ordinary contact between me and each of you of our parish community. He will represent me at all official parish meetings when I am not present. This does not mean that you do not have direct access to me. I will always be happy to have communication with each and every member and minister of our beloved community. So, the parish staff now consists of the Pastor (Bishop Peter Elder Hickman); the Business Office Manager (Kathryn Tuma); the Minister of Music (Mirella Morra-Hickman); Fr. Arturo Querijero, Associate Pastor; the Reverend Jetty Van den Berghe, Associate Pastor; and Fr. Bala Madan, Vicar General. I think I speak on behalf of this entire Pastoral Team when I say that we look forward to being of service to you, the brothers, sisters, and friends of Saint Matthew Church and all who would call upon us for Pastoral Ministry and support.