December 11, 2015 marked a milestone in my life. Though I did not realize it at the time (my internal math had somehow put that date in mid March) that was the day when I had spent exactly half of my priesthood living at St. Ann parish. I was ordained on Dec. 15, 1984. And I took up residence here on June 12, 2000. So when you do the math, and add in leap days, Dec. 11th marked half of my priesthood living at St. Ann parish. I could not be more richly blessed, nor more thankful. These nearly 16 years have been an amazing gift.
And then, continuing the math, on January 23, 2017, I will once more have lived less than half of my priesthood at St. Ann parish. You see, I have been asked to become the shepherd of the people of a different parish (as yet, I am unable to say where, until all the changes are done) effective on July 1, 2016.
As you can imagine, my emotions have been quite mixed. I have said it early and often, I am the most blessed pastor in the entire Archdiocese of St. Louis in my assignment here. I love you, the people of St. Ann parish. And I love my college students at the Newman Center. And the thought of not being among you on a day to day basis is a sad one for me.
Yet, if you remember a homily I gave at the end of October – I spoke about the Priest Profile I am asked to fill out every year, and how I made completely sure I had checked the box saying: “I want to stay in my current assignment.” And then, after much praying, eventually also checked the box regarding possible future assignments that said: “Here I am, send me, no strings attached.”
Fast forward to February, when my classmate, who is on the priests’ personnel board, asked me at my priest support group – “Bill, they are throwing your name around for a few parishes, and I want to know what you want,” my reaction was “No way. I don’t want to move!!” Yet, I found that when I took that to prayer that night, in the deepest place in my heart, I had already said ‘Here I am, send me, with no strings attached.’
I never saw that ‘yes’ coming. But there it was.
Perhaps it is what you know as married couples all the time. There are some decisions that seem like they are not ‘easy to make’ because they involve change and sacrifice, but in reality, they ARE easy to make, because you have made that foundational choice when you said those vows: “For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” And though I used different words on the day of my ordination, that ‘intention’ was also at the heart of my promise to the Church on that December day in 1984 – that I would love her and honor her, all the days of my life, no matter where that promise took me.
You will hear more in the weeks to come about that transition (at this stage, I don’t have a clue who is coming here…) But in the mean time, I continue to be, and always will be, the most blessed pastor in the Archdiocese because of who you are… Thank you for a wonderful half of my priesthood…