Massachusetts Bishop Shaw offers update on illness

Posted Aug 26, 2014

1-15_ShawMThomas_mfs[Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts] Massachusetts Bishop Thomas Shaw, SSJE, sent a message to his diocese on Aug. 25 announcing that the brain cancer he has been battling since May 2013 is incurable and expressing gratitude for ongoing prayers and support.

“At the recommendation of my medical team, I’ve decided now to pursue a course of treatment that will provide a good quality of life, though for how long, we can’t be sure,” Shaw wrote. “My prayer feels different from day to day.  Some days there is an expansiveness to it, and on other days, it isn’t so easy, though there aren’t too many of those days.  But throughout, good days and more difficult days, I feel supported by you, the people of this diocese and beyond, and by your prayers, and I’ve felt my faith life grow in significant ways.  I am looking forward to what God will bring in this new time.”

Shaw, who has served the Massachusetts diocese as its bishop since 1995, is set to retire in September when the Rev. Alan M. Gates is ordained and consecrated as the 16th bishop of Massachusetts.

The full text of Shaw’s message follows.


My Sisters and Brothers,

As my date of retirement nears, I want to be in touch with all of you and to thank you for your continued expressions of care and concern.  We have known since the beginning, when I was diagnosed with brain cancer in May of last year, that we are dealing with a difficult kind of cancer.  We have been hopeful in the therapies we’ve pursued over these months, but we now know that for me there is no cure.  At the recommendation of my medical team, I’ve decided now to pursue a course of treatment that will provide a good quality of life, though for how long, we can’t be sure.

As hard as this is to hear and to tell, I didn’t want this time to go by without letting all of you know where things are.  My medical team continues to provide me with excellent care, and I have a wonderful community of support around me.  My prayer feels different from day to day.  Some days there is an expansiveness to it, and on other days, it isn’t so easy, though there aren’t too many of those days.  But throughout, good days and more difficult days, I feel supported by you, the people of this diocese and beyond, and by your prayers, and I’ve felt my faith life grow in significant ways.  I am looking forward to what God will bring in this new time.

You know, time too often in our culture is perceived as a problem; all of us, at some point, feel we don’t have enough of it. Yet, because of Jesus the Messiah, all time is now God’s time.  It is part of the unfolding of God’s glory.  We are invited into it as an experience of the presence of God.  I believe that is where our prayer, where our life together in gathered community, where our participation with God in making all things new is taking us: into the heart of God.

May each of us be opened to the possibility and the hope offered through God’s gift of time.

Our bishop-elect, Alan, will keep you informed of changes in my condition going forward.  I continue to cherish your cards and letters, and I want to say again how much I appreciate the years I’ve served as your bishop and all that you have taught me.  I plan to be part of the upcoming consecration, and I look forward to joining you in welcoming our new bishop.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.

Faithfully,

M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE


Comments (8)

  1. Maureen Shea says:

    I am deeply saddened by this news but as always, grateful for the honesty and grace of Bishop Shaw’s approach to life and to now life’s end. His leadership on so many issues , reconciliation, gun control, Middle East peace among them, has been an inspiration for those seeking justice. His gift of time with us has been extraordinary.

    Maureen Shea

  2. Vicki Gray says:

    Dear Bishop Tom –
    I know that there are no words that matter at a time like this, save those exchanged between you and the God who loves you. Just know that you are surrounded by a cloud of love and prayers., among them mine. You continue to be an insoiration to me and I am eternally grateful for your witness.
    I wish you peace and love.
    Vicki

  3. John McCann says:

    As a member of the Fellowship of St. John, I have been praying for Bishop Tom since news of your condition was made public, I have prayed in community with the Brothers, at the SSJE chapel, at my home church, Trinity Wall Street in New York, and you continue to inspire with your grace, your faith in God, which seems to grow stronger, I pray that you are comforted by the SSJE community, your Diocese, and all of us who have been touched by your ministry,
    May the peace of the Lord be with you, Dear Brother Tom.

  4. Dear Bishop Shaw,
    When I was younger, The Rev. Theodore Ferris, of Trinity Church, showed a journey through cancer, similar to yourself. Having a safe lodging, my prayers are for your holy rest, and peace at the last.
    Yours in Christ,
    The Rev. Joe Pennington, (Ret.)
    Diocese of Lexington

  5. Fr. Al Walls says:

    Profoundly grateful for the gift of your life and the many days God may grant us with your presence in this world.

  6. Phillip Ayers says:

    I always felt a kinship to Bishop Tom and first met him when he was Superior of SSJE as he preached at a colleague’s institution when I was in St. Paul, MN in the 80s. The kinship started when I served later in Western Michigan, where he grew up and a parishioner of mine had gone to grade school with him! I met him later on and enjoyed the scenes in Gene Robinson’s newest film in which +Tom played a large part.
    May God grant him comfort in his last days with us and may we always give thanks for him: words, wisdom, wit!
    Fr Phillip Ayers, Portland, OR

  7. Tom? You and I don’t agree about much of anything but if this should happen to be it, I hope you have a smooth and effortless way home.

  8. Dearest Bishop Tom,
    I remember meeting you back at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and how warm and inviting you are. While it saddens me that your time has come I would like to also express as you well know that this is the beginning of a new chapter in your life, that death is the door to Paradise and that my dearly beloved William and his mother the Rev. Katrina Swanson along with many others will gladly greet you upon arrivial.
    What I ask of you now is to give a big hug and kiss to my William. That I patiently wait till my time comes to join him and that as difficult (and beautiful) as it is on the earthly plane without him I will continue on with our ministry.
    Love and Light in Christ,
    Helene

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