For many of our priests, this is the last weekend in their present assignments. They will be moving to new ministries that start officially at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28. That hour on the last Tuesday in June has been our principal diocesan reassignment time for as long as anyone can remember. One day, I am going to find out why and when that pattern was established.
Such times of change evoke a range of emotions in those affected by them — in the priests who are moving, and in the parish communities who bid them farewell or who receive them into their midst.
On the one hand, it can be difficult to say goodbye to friends with whom we have shared some of life’s deeply significant moments; and we all know that to start anew is not always easy.
On the other hand, we often can find excitement in fresh beginnings and new relationships. Such experiences frequently renew our interest and tap new energies.
Experience has taught me that some of our priests find regular changes in assignment to be very stimulating and rewarding. One can almost predict when they will begin looking into new ministerial possibilities. Other priests, no less willing to serve the needs of the diocese for which they were ordained, prefer to stay in their assignments for as long as they possibly can.
It is a bit more difficult to characterize the dispositions of parish communities that experience changes in pastoral leadership. I think it is fair to say, however, that the great majority of our communities love their parish priests and are genuinely sorry when they are reassigned. It is also true to say that they welcome their new pastoral leaders.
To be sure, there are times when the transfer of a parish priest carries a particular sting for the community. Usually, that occurs when the people of the parish judge that the transfer was made without due concern of the needs of the parish, the priest in question or both. My hope in those cases is that people understand that we try to be as fair as possible to all of our parishes in the distribution of our diminishing number of priests.
Whether your parish is experiencing a change in leadership on June 28 or not, Tuesday’s personnel moves in our diocese provide a special opportunity to think about parish life and the ministry of the ordained priest in the midst of the community.
Questions like the following may help in your reflection: Who are the priests who have had the biggest influence on my life or on the lives of people close to me? What qualities or activities or dispositions of theirs account for this good influence? What significant moments or particular memories come to mind when I think of them?
If you’ve come this far, you may wish to continue with these: Have I thanked these men for their good gifts or otherwise encouraged them in their ministry? Do I take seriously my responsibility to contribute to an environment in which vocations can grow — by prayer, by positive comments about priests and priesthood, by encouraging those who seem gifted for priesthood to consider the possibility that the Lord may be calling them to that vocation?
Please pray for all of our priests this weekend, and especially for those who are moving into a new phase of their service to our local church. They will appreciate that kind favor very much, and so will I.
Peace to all.