Those were the days, these are the days…
A parishioner commented after the 5pm mass last night – “It sure is nice to see three priests hanging around the church after mass.” (Fr. Nord, the visiting missionary, Fr. Evan Villanueva and myself) Many of you remember those days when that was the norm for parishes. Each parish was staffed by a pastor and two associates. We can smile and think, romantically, “Ah, those were the days.” And in many ways, they were the days. Never before in the American church did we have such a high ratio of priests to laypeople in our parishes. That was a peak moment in the history of the unfolding of God’s design for his church.
And now, things are different. And though my faith tells me that “This, too, is the unfolding of God’s design”, I hear a few challenges to my complacent shrug of the ‘Oh well’ shoulders.
The first is to pray daily for an increase of vocations to the priesthood. It is what our Lord asked of the apostles and the early church. There will always be a need for laborers to work in the vineyard, always a need for ardent men and women of faith to sacrifice and give their lives totally in the dedication of celibacy to the church. So pray for good vocations, holy men like Conor Sullivan, the seminarian who finished his stay with us on July 28, that they may persevere in their calling.
Secondly, one interpretation of these signs of the times is that we (the church) need to find ever more inclusive ways to invite people to leadership roles within the church. Part of this movement is practical – to accomplish all the tasks that were on the plate of those two associates in every rectory. But it is more than that, more than just getting things done. It is about being co-workers in the vineyard, co-laborers in the fields.
This shortage, I believe, is an invitation from God to move us from the “pray, pay and obey” model of parish life, to one where every parishioner is able to reach the dignity of their baptismal calling to be priest, prophet and king. When each of us are in touch with the unique gifts that God has placed in our hearts for the good of the community, and has an avenue within the parish to share those things, then we become, as the Archbishop is fond of saying, Alive in Christ, and our parishes become places of growth and love.
So to that end, I am seeking folks who are willing to serve on the parish council, to be a leaven of leadership within the parish for the next three years. Our agenda during that time – everything that has to do with making this parish fit the seven hallmarks of a vibrant parish as enumerated by Archbishop Carlson. Think about it and pray about it, and when I call to ask you to be a part of this work in the parish, ask for the grace to say yes…