Having asked your prayers for our priests and pastoral administrators gathered in convocation this week, I want to offer you a brief report on the event.
I was very pleased by the experience and, although I have not reviewed the evaluations offered by participants, have the strong impression that they did too.
My own pleasure with the experience was rooted in a number of factors: the quality of the presentations made by Jerry Galipeau and Father Ed Foley, OFM Cap; the ways in which the presentations of each complimented those of the other; the beautiful inclusion of music to illustrate their themes and engage participants; the open and honest ways in which our pastoral leaders responded to the presentations — their questions, comments and shared experiences — and the moving prayer celebrations, including the eucharistic liturgy at Holy Family, Auburn, on Tuesday afternoon.
All of the above elements made the convocation great for me. But, the most positive part of it was the presence of the women and men who are the pastoral leaders of our diocese. In my opinion they are a remarkably generous and gifted group of people. Their love of the Lord and their dedication to ministry among you are most impressive. They bespeak a generosity of spirit and a concern for others that I find quite moving and inspiring.
What heightened the admiration I hold for them is the fact that this is not the easiest of all times in which to minister in the church. We all still feel the pain of the sexual abuse of minors by a few of our clergy. Many communities and individuals are hurting as they experience the closure of institutions — schools and parish churches — that have been very important in their lives and the lives of people who are close to their hearts. We have suffered a loss in the number who share the Sunday liturgy with us. And we are all touched by, and are concerned about, the diminishing number of priests available to preside at Eucharist for our communities. To all of the above, add the unrest of many when a beloved pastor transfers to another parish and/or when a pastor is replaced by a pastoral administrator.
None of the above are easy experiences for our communities. All of us would much prefer not to have to go through such difficult times. But, the fact is that we do have to go through them. And, we will. But we will do it most productively when, united in faith and charity, we respond in the most thoughtful and loving way that we can — not placing blame but exploring new possibilities, considering new options.
A grace of the convocation to me was a conversation I had with the assembly around some questions I had asked them to consider: What gives you energy and enthusiasm for ministry? What are the realities that tend to dishearten you and drain your energy? How can we support one another more effectively? What is helping us to sustain enthusiasm in the face of criticism and anger?
There is an implicit assurance of confidentiality attached to what any individual said in the forum. But, I can tell you I best characterize the comments made as charitable, optimistic, trusting in the Lord and the Lord’s promise to us, filled with affection for their people and gratitude for their call to ministry. Make no mistake about it, our friends shared a measure of pain and frustration that they experience in ministry — sometimes from criticisms and unreasonable demands and expectations raised by the people they serve. But, the bottom line reflected a love for their calling and a true reverence for the faith and goodness of people like yourself.
You enjoy the daily prayer of our priests and pastoral administrators. Please support them with yours.
Peace to all.