Father Ronald Rohlheiser, OMI, offered a wonderful service to me and our pastoral leaders when we gathered at the Doubletree Inn in Henrietta from Monday afternoon until late morning Wednesday.
The depth and scope of his presentation, his humor and pastoral insights, his love for Christ, our church and ministry were great gifts to all of us. I understood better when our sessions with him ended why anyone who wants him to come to them has to book him so early. You book him early because he is popular. He is popular because he is good — very good indeed.
Ron’s overarching theme was "Biblical Invitations to Deeper Discipleship." If that rings a bell, it is because it echoes the theme of the third and final season of Spirit Alive! which we will conclude at the end of next month. Our pastoral leaders thought it would be nourishing and fruitful for us to spend some substantial time together receiving some teaching and encouragement from someone who had done a lot of work on the theme.
Ron’s goal was to help us to reflect on the fact that discipleship is a dramatic relationship through which the Lord calls us to an ever deeper friendship and, generally, to a more intentional and focused gift of self in return.
His methodology in pursuit of that goal was to lead us through a reflection on familiar biblical stories and images and to suggest new ways of looking at them and thinking about them. I found his work enormously helpful. His work, like that of all good teachers, instructed, raised questions, inspired, encouraged and challenged. He did some of all the above for me. Based on the comments participants made to me as we parted ways, I have little doubt that he had a strong impact on all of us.
If Ron Rohlheiser was a gift to all of us, the company of so many esteemed coworkers gathered together for growth and nourishment was a special grace for me. Some of the delight was the opportunity to talk with many whom I do not see as often as I’d like. It’s always good to touch base with friends from time to time. No less gratifying was watching participants interact with one another. Some met one another for the first time. Others have been friends for 60 years or more.
As I write on this Wednesday afternoon, some of our sisters and brothers are back at work in their parishes and other ministry settings. Our friends from Owego and Auburn, Hornell and Horseheads may still be on the way. My guess is that — wherever they are — some word, experience or encounter that had some particular significance for them during the hours of convocation is bouncing around inside them.
Another of my lasting memories of the convocation experience is of the reverence our pastoral leaders have for you, the people they serve, and their deep desire to serve you lovingly and faithfully.
If you have a chance when next you meet your priest or pastoral administrator, I hope that you will ask them how they are doing or encourage them in any way that seems appropriate to you. It will be a wonderful Easter gift from you to them.
Please continue to pray for those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil and received into full communion with us.
Peace to all.