Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Year, New Life

As we begin the new calendar year, and move into ordinary time we are reminded that, as much as we may hate it, change is an ordinary part of life. The world and each of us are constantly in flux. God is the only unchanging reality.

It is still hard to believe that I celebrated my 25th anniversary of ordination last year, and this year will mark 12 years since I first came to be pastor of St. John's and 7 years since I was asked to take over as administrator of St. Patrick's temporarily. The following year I became pastor.

Many have asked how it has been possible for me to work four days a week at the diocese and pastor two parishes. My answer is always the same: the grace of God, and a group of incredibly dedicated staff and volunteers. Both parishes have been blessed with new life, the addition of the Hispanic community to St. John's and the renaissance of Church Hill at St. Patrick's.

When a diocesan priest is ordained he promises to three things: to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for the Church, to live a celibate life, and respect and obedience to his bishop and his successors. Indeed we believe that our bishops are the successors to the apostles, and the Holy Spirit works through them in a unique way.

When Fr. Peter left to go to New Orleans his slot at the Tribunal was never filled. Bishop DiLorenzo has asked me beginning July 1 to move to full-time ministry at the tribunal, helping with masses in Spanish on the weekends. The diocese will be paying St. Elizabeth's parish for me to live in their presently unoccupied part of the rectory.

On Thursday Bishop told me that he is allowing the priests to be the first to tell their people of the changes however they choose. Since I could not be simultaneously in both parishes, I chose to post it here where all can receive the news at the same time. And I am announcing it now, since last night I had a stranger who already knew ask me about it. News travels quickly in Richmond.

I will not pretend that this is not painful. Almost half of my priesthood has been connected with St. John's; and St. Patrick's and Church Hill are in the truest sense of the word "my home." I have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere since my parents' house. But we are ordained to serve the Church and not ourselves. I go where God calls me.

The parishes of St. John and St. Patrick will continue as a cluster. The new pastor will be assigned as full-time pastor for the cluster. Fr. Frank will continue as parochial vicar. It has been, to say the least, a challenge to do what in the past would have been the job of three priests and it will be a true blessing for the parishes to have a full-time pastor. The greatest gift you can give me will be to show him the same love and support that I have felt throughout the years. Receive him with open minds and hearts. The Bishop will be making the assignment of the new pastor soon.

As I said at the beginning none of us likes change. With change there is always uncertainty. But there are also new possibilities. Let us pray that God will pour out his Holy Spirit on parishes of St. John and St. Patrick's, and renew within them the fire of his love and wisdom.

And am rarely without words. But I can find no words that can appropriately express my gratitude for having had the opportunity to be a part of these two incredible parish families.