- Faith and Worship
- How Do I...
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: June 20, 2018
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.
In today’s first reading we have the end of the prophet Elijah’s public ministry. He has served the Lord faithfully for many years and his life has been eventful, to say the least.
He announced a three year drought which then happened. He lived along a creek for awhile and was fed miraculously by a raven. Then he moved to Zarephath of Sidon, multiplies food and oil of a widow and lives with them for the rest of the drought. He raises her son from the dead at one point.
Then he has that famous ordeal with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in which their sacrifice goes unanswered but his sacrifice is consumed by fire from heaven, after which he proceeds to slit the throats of all 400 of them.
"Throughout her ministry, Vernell has insisted on the tremendous blessing of Catholic schools and has done everything in her power to ensure that they prosper."
This gets him into trouble with Queen Jezebel so he flees to Mount Horeb, encounters God in a small still voice and then at God’s direction goes to anoint kings for Damascus and Israel and anoint Elisha to be his successor.
He then condemns King Ahab for complicity in the killing of Naboth arranged by Jezebel for the purpose of taking possession of his vineyard, and announces that Jezebel will suffer a horrible death in punishment for all her misdeeds.
And then in today’s first reading his public ministry comes to an end with his departure for heaven in a fiery chariot at which point he leaves his mantle with Elisha, who will now take over the task of delivering God’s word to the people. Throughout his ministry Elijah insisted on the unique divinity of the Lord God and the repudiation of the cult of any other god.
Today, we are gathered to pray for Vernell as she marks the end of her public ministry in Catholic education, though I suspect she will continue to help any way she can — she’s just that kind of person. She has served the Lord faithfully for many years and her life has been eventful, to say the least.
She has spent 48 years as an educator in Arkansas, starting out in the Sheridan school district and then 25 years in Catholic education. She was the principal at St. Edward School for nine years and then diocesan superintendent of the 27 Catholic schools in Arkansas for the last 16 years, including the entire time I have been here as your bishop.
During this time she has worked hard to help struggling schools stay afloat. She has intervened when schools faced a crisis, more than once taking over the temporary administration of schools that were in trouble. And she has undertaken the sad task of assisting schools that had to close to make that transition as smoothly as possible.
She has helped to recruit and even train principals to some degree when necessary. She has helped schools address problems that have arisen among their teaching or administrative staff, and even when there was trouble with their pastors. She has had to address cases of teachers arrested for crimes — very painful cases of embezzlement, abuse of minors and child pornography — she’s seen it all and worked to bring healing to the schools so sadly affected.
She has worked to bridge conflicts of every sort, including with parents. She has assisted with curriculum issues, with fundraising, with offering in-services for teachers and staff, and with the development of new policies, for instance regarding same-sex and transgender issues a year or so ago.
As you can see, Vernell may not have slit the throats of 400 prophets of Baal, but she has been just as faithful and dedicated as Elijah all these many years. And now she will be taken, not to heaven quite yet, but at least to the retirement paradise of Hot Springs Village, and in an internal combustion automobile rather than an external combustion chariot.
She will now leave her mantle with someone else who has not yet been selected, who will now take over the task of delivering God’s word to people through Catholic education. And as we all know, throughout her ministry, Vernell has insisted on the tremendous blessing of Catholic schools and has done everything in her power to ensure that they prosper.
So Vernell, we are grateful to God for you and we thank you for what a blessing you have been for us all these years. And we pray for you, for much happiness and good health in this next chapter of your life!