Deal with change by praying - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Deal with change by praying

Many of you know that for many years in this diocese, the effective date for most pastoral assignments is the last Tuesday of June at 6 p.m. I do not know exactly when that practice began, but I do know that it was many years before my tenure as bishop.

All through the last winter and spring months, we have gone through our usual process of making assignments. When a pastorate is open, we circulate a profile of the parish and invite applications from those who are eligible and interested. Interested persons send their applications to our Priests’ Personnel Board. After they have done their consultations, they submit their recommendation to me. If I accept their recommendation — and it’s the rare case when I do not — I make the appointment.

We do not have the same process for parochial vicars. But, we do invite the priest in question to provide his input about proposed future assignments. And, we give careful attention to what he has to say.

As you might expect — no matter if the process leading to the assignment was perfectly agreeable — the prospect of such change can give birth to mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is difficult for many of us to leave places where we have been privileged to share in events and experiences that molded and shaped the lives of people to whom we have been deeply committed and who have offered so much to us. And for most of us — for some more than others — significant change can be a very challenging reality.

On the other hand, people who are moving to new places often have an accompanying sense of excitement. They love a fresh start — to meet new people, to take on new challenges, to enjoy another set of resources with which to work.

I am very much aware that our pastoral ministers are not the only ones who need to adjust to new assignments. So do the people who say goodbye to such friends and/or greet new ones. For them, too, such changes can be very difficult. I know that from letters I have received and comments I have heard over the years.

I write this a few weeks in advance of June 26 to ask you to pray for all pastoral ministers who will be taking up new assignments, and to pray for all of the faith communities who will be impacted by these moves.

If you are members of communities directly affected by these changes, let me ask you to consider the following:

What will you miss most in the person who will be leaving you for another assignment?

If there is to be a replacement for the person leaving, what would you name as the most important gift that person could offer to your community?

What would you like to say by way of thanks and encouragement to the person leaving your community? Will you make or take the opportunity to say it or to write it?

How will you make it obvious to the new person to come into your midst that he or she is welcome among you and will receive your enthusiastic support?

If you are a pastoral minister going on to a new assignment, may I ask you to consider these thoughts:

Have you named for the people you have served the reasons why you are so grateful to have served among them?

Have you let them know how they have helped you grow in faith; and how they have helped you come closer to the Lord, to understand yourself better?

With what words of affection, encouragement and gratitude would you like to depart their company?

To my dear friends who are retiring:

I want you to be free to use any of the above as it might suit your purpose. But, beginning now, I want to respect your new-found freedom. Above all, I want to thank you for myself and our whole diocese for your years of faithful, loving ministry to our community. We wish you peaceful, prayerful, happy days, knowing that because of your deeply held commitment to the ministry of Christ, we shall still meet you often in the vineyard.

Peace to all.

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