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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for the Third Sunday of Advent (December 17, 2023)

Are You Open to Engaging in Email Correspondence? And Other Pressing Questions

I looked at my watch and noted the time. Not yet noon, I thought to myself, and yet another pastoral emergency on my hands! 

To be fair, every emergency that I experience is now a pastoral emergency, in the sense that I am a pastor. The present case, I felt sure, was doubly so. It concerned the following email received from Fr. Humberto, who evidently was using a different email account due to the sensitivity of the matter:

Greetings. It’s me. Are you available? Email me back when you get this. I wish to know if you are open to corresponding by email, which is why I am sending this message to you. You see, I need to communicate privately with you urgently about an important matter, with discretion. To be precise, I have a request to make of you, off the record. 

You see, I am currently detained in an important meeting. Will tell you about it later. Otherwise, I would have called you, from my phone. This is your pastor (see name below). To get to the point: I need you to purchase some Amazon gift cards, personally. These are to help some children battling various ailments or bone disease in the hospital, before it’s too late. I need the cards now, but because of my busy schedule and this long meeting that I am currently in, I can’t go. After all, it’s their birthdays. 

I look forward to hearing from you. I know I can count on you to act rapidly here. Thanks.

You can get the Visa gift cards from the nearby store. The important thing is to buy exactly ten of them, or more if you can. $100 each would be sufficient to really help. Visa gift cards, or Amazon too. Or Home Depot. Every one helps. I will repay, of course. 

What to do when you have the cards? Here is what will make it easiest for me and you, under the circumstances. Once you have them, it’s very important that you send me the numbers on the card, just like a credit card, along with the denominations. After activating them. I will take it from there, to help the children. 

I will explain more later, but must be brief because am I so busy at the moment. Don’t call. 


Rev. Humberto Palomino Nunez

To be sure, such a formal message from Fr. H seemed strange, but the terse tone was likely due to the pressing circumstances in which he found himself. Since I was fairly certain that he understood he was no longer pastor of St. Mark’s, I figured he was using the term loosely as a substitute for “religious superior,” which would have taken longer to type out. 

As you can imagine, I bolted out of the staff meeting to drive to the local CVS in order to save the day. “Ten or more?” I thought to myself as I raced down Fairview, “so should I buy like 12? 20?”

When I reached the store, I was paralyzed initially by the many gift card choices. Which kind would be most useful for children in the hospital? Google Play? Do hospitals even take Visa? After selecting a smattering of the available options, I rushed to the checkout. I was surprised to find the cashier holding out a phone to me. “It’s for you,” he said. I lifted it to my hear and heard distinctly on the other line my own voice: 

“Happy Gaudete Sunday.” 

“Please don’t be fooled by scam attempts feigning to be from your pastor. These lines are lifted from actual emails and texts that parishioners have received. I will never ask you to buy gift cards or wire money or send me your credit card info. Always check the phone number (my area code is 651) or email address (for the address). If it smells fishy, it probably is. Hanging comma clauses are a give away, apparently.”

Be simple as doves and shrewd as serpents. Behold: I have told you beforehand. (Mt 10:16; 24:25).

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