View frustrating experience as invitation to new life - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

View frustrating experience as invitation to new life

On Oct. 25, I will speak to a group of pastoral ministers, catechists and lay leaders of the Diocese of Albany. Their request of me is to offer a message of hope and encouragement to them as they continue their pastoral-planning efforts.

My understanding of the situation is that in this stage of their pastoral planning they are between that time when all planning groups submitted their recommendations (June) and the time when Bishop Howard Hubbard will make a final decision about them (January). Bishop Hubbard has appointed a diocesan panel to review all of the plans and to make their recommendations to him.

I can well understand that all involved in the process are anxious to have some settlement of this latest phase of a work they have been doing in Albany for several years. Uncertainty about the future is not something most of us would choose. We like to know what lies ahead so that we can plan for it. And the uncertainty can seem even heavier when it includes the possibility that relationships, habits of life and places dear to us will all be changed in one way or another.

My Albany friends did not extend this invitation, nor did I accept it, with any sense that I have knowledge or experience they don’t have that will ease their burdens. We all know that I don’t. Rather, I think they invited me because they know that the people of this diocese — you — also have been working for quite some time to respond in a generous way to the pastoral challenges we face.

I have enjoyed the assignment because it has led me to think about my continuing experience with the faithful people of this diocese who are always ready to roll up their sleeves to work for the common good of our faith community — even when they anticipate that the results of their work might call them to some personal sacrifice. The experience also has renewed my awareness that our parish pastoral leaders and those on our diocesan staff have been willing to persevere in the effort even when it becomes very difficult. I don’t presume to speak for them but I think they realize that our failure to act would leave our children with problems far worse than we face. They do not want to do that. I don’t either.

While I have thought a lot about this theme and gathered notes and stories for the session in Albany, I have not as yet finalized my presentation. But what I know will be central to it will be the critical importance of the attitude each one brings to it.

To me it is essential that all of us see this sometimes frustrating experience as an invitation to new life that can open us to relationships and exciting pastoral possibilities we might never have imagined.

That is a disposition not easy to come by. And, it will be more difficult for some than for others. I have no magic methods to come to that frame of mind. But, I have seen them bear fruit among you often enough to know that two practices are extremely important in this matter. The first is to pray to the Lord every day that we can locate and understand our pastoral-planning effort as a participation in the Paschal mystery; i.e., that we think of the loss or fear of loss we experience as the seed of new life not yet realized.

The second is to make our question not, “How can I preserve that which is dear to me?” but, “Where is the Holy Spirit leading us in these circumstances?” I have seen or been told of marvelous stories of a change of heart that occurs when people commit this effort to such prayer and searching.

I ask your prayers for our ongoing efforts and for the work in Albany. It is a necessary and, I believe, a life-giving work. But it is one that requires a great deal of patience because we live among some tensions that will not be resolved quickly or easily.

Peace to all.

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