Sharing – Homily for Eric Bartleson

Dear Friends, 

For those of you in the Winona area who knew Eric Bartleson, but because of the pandemic, couldn’t attend his funeral, I thought you might like to read the homily that I gave. –Pastor Kathy

June 13, 2020

I wanted to begin my comments today by expressing my deep gratitude to you, Paul, Jennifer, and Ann Marie in giving me the privilege of officiating at your Dad’s funeral liturgy—really a celebration of his life.  Eric was a good and trusted friend and I came to know him and your Mom, Cathy, over the years as I pastored All Are One Catholic church.  As you all know, Eric was a founding member of All Are One, a fact, it turns out, in getting the whole venue changed for today!

I thought for those of you who may not be as familiar with our little “renegade” church here in Winona, it might be helpful to share a bit of our history—that which Eric was so much a part of when we began nearly 13 years ago.

This church has always been and will continue to be one that is inclusive of all—anyone who wants to pray with us is welcome and as a result, we have many Catholic folks, but Lutherans and a Methodist—by background, also pray with us regularly.  It seems that this is, as Jesus intended, when he prayed the night before his death, “that they all would be one,”—thus the name of our parish.

The majority of our parishioners believed in the changes of Vatican Council II, yearning for a church that lived out these changes, only to be dialed back under the papacy of John Paul II.

So, the two dozen or so people who answered a letter from me in the fall of 2007 after I was ordained a deacon through the Roman Catholic Womenpriests organization, inviting them to a discussion about having a Catholic parish that was inclusive,  barring none from the communion table, accepting the idea that God calls women to serve as priests, just as men are called, included Eric Bartleson.

The next year, I was ordained a priest in apostolic succession just as the men are and we were off and running.  Eric was with us from the beginning, supporting the work we do in this community—among other types of outreach, trying to give back in financial assistance as much as we possibly can, locally, nationally and internationally to those in need.  In fact, in serving on our board as its president from its inception for 10 years, Eric was fond of telling others that his favorite task, along with other board members, “was giving our money away.”

Because our parish is so generous in giving, many quarters showed a negative balance as we always wanted to give one more gift and were receiving donations right along to make up the difference!

We were and are in a unique, symbiotic relationship with the Lutheran Campus Center in sharing a ministry space—rent-free, which allows us the ability to give so much away, yet support the mission of the Lutheran Campus Center as well.

I believe what Eric so appreciated about our parish was its openness, which, guided by the Spirit allowed, “love,” not “law” to rule.  He was an integral part of our parish and will be solely missed. He will live on in our parish though, through his soul-mate of these last 5 years, Pat Przybylski, of which we are so grateful.

I will now briefly tie in the Scripture readings chosen for today.  We began with the Old Testament reading from Ecclesiastes which has been loved across the ages—put to music by some, as it speaks so well of the “turning” of our lifetimes.  With every funeral that I do where this reading is used, I always say when we get to the end that I don’t think God would mind if we list some of the things that uniquely reflect the person that we are remembering and celebrating.  Thus for Eric we could say, “There is a time for being with and loving family, there is a time for fishing, for being on the water, for running, for traveling and so on.”

The second reading, the 23rd psalm is again a loved reading—many know it by heart across the denominations and I especially like a newer version from the translation, The Message.  In the original we read, “Only goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in your house for days without end.”  The Message has this beautiful line:  “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.  I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I rather like the idea that our God “chases” after us throughout our lives, and on June 8th, our loving God caught up with Eric, after a life well-lived and took him home to one of the “many dwelling places” prepared for us, you and me, as our brother Jesus spoke of in the Gospel today.  Amen? Amen!