There is a saying that change is inevitable. Change certainly seems common. Once again I am about to experience a change in my parish assignment. It was announced this weekend that I will be leaving St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Livingston County to become the Parochial Administrator of St. Mary’s of the Lake in Watkins Glen and St. Benedict’s in Odessa.
Of course, this means change for me. It also obviously means change for St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s. It also means change for Our Lady of the Lakes Parish. Why? Because that is where Fr. Jorge Ramirez, who will take my place as Parochial Vicar at St. Luke’s, is coming from. Change seldom affects just one person or group.
We should also realize that it is not just these three parishes facing changes. There will be several priests changing parish assignments at the end of June. I have not seen a complete list of changes but by an unofficial count at least fourteen parishes in our diocese will see a change this year. Two priests are retiring. Perhaps most notably in parishes facing change is The Parish of the Holy Family in Gates who have been under the leadership of a temporary priest administrator since the death of their pastor, Fr. Mike Schramel. Then, just last Friday, Fr. George Heyman, Pastor of Church of the Assumption and the Church of the Resurrection in Fairport passed away. Neither of these deaths was expected. In the coming months, please keep all the parishes facing change in your prayers. This week, please especially pray for Church of the Assumption and the Church of the Resurrection in Fairport as they grieve the loss of Fr. George Heyman.
Change may seem inevitable but that does not mean we like it. Why might we be resistant to change? Perhaps our greatest resistance to change comes when we like things the way they are. In the context of priests assignments, this applies to the parishes that really like the priests they have and don’t want them to leave. On the other hand, if the priest is not well-liked, then the change can be welcomed.
There can also be times when a priest is neither especially well-liked or not liked. We still may not like the change simply because we like stability. A change would bring the uncertainty of what the new priest will be like. There is a saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
This brings me to the topic of how I am seeing this particular change for me (as well as how St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s might be looking at this year’s changes). I am used to changing assignments. St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s will be the sixth parish I have served in since ordination. Normally, when I go to a new parish, I know no one there. After I arrive, as I get to know people, I discover connections between parishioners (mainly relatives and friends) to parishioners I have known in other parishes. I already know of at least one such connection between St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s as I know there is a person I know in St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s that was a college friend of someone I see at St. Luke’s who remain friends after over thirty years.
This time it will be different. I will know people at St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s and some of them know me. Why? Because St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s is the parish I went to beginning in 1998 when I returned to Church until I was ordained. I consider it my home parish. So, I will know some of the people but not all of the people. At the end of June, I will celebrate fourteen years of priesthood. In that time, some of the parishioners I knew at St. Mary’s/St. Ben’s have passed away. I’m sure some others have moved away. I also assume there will be some new parishioners since then. Add to that, the parish received a new Pastor in 2014. I’m sure somethings have changed while others have stayed the same. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me go with an open mind and heart to see the parish as it is today, not simply as it was fourteen years ago when I presided at a Mass for my very first time there. I also pray that the parishioners realize I am not exactly the same person I was fourteen years ago. Hopefully, I have become a better person, growing in faith and love of Jesus Christ.
There is another aspect of this change that I look forward to. My dad lives in Watkins Glen. For the last fourteen years I have lived between 25 and 75 miles from his house. It will be nice to be close.
There is one more aspect of how I will experience this change that I would like to include here, leaving St. Luke’s. While I look forward to “going home”, leaving any place can some with some difficulty. There are certainly things and people I will miss. This is normally true for all of us when we leave one place for another. When I prepare to leave a parish, I find myself sometimes wondering if there is something more I could do to help the parish before I leave. I pray that I have done what God has asked of me and that the new priest serve the parish in accord with God’s Will.
Is change inevitable? Hum…there is one constant in the universe…God. God has a plan. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
Yes, God has a plan. From the words that Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, let us all pray “thy will be done.”
Beautifully written. It is true that I will miss you and your teachings. But I know change is inevitable and I wish you well in your new role. I’m glad you will be closer to your father.
Best wishes in all you do.
I will miss you and your dedication to teaching adults for a deeper understanding of our church teachings and faith. Who will I pepper with my questions? You always seemed so welcoming of every inquiry. After I say my rosary I have developed a personal litany of saints. I include the patron saints of my parents and in-laws, my siblings, several saints who have been there for me over the decades, and the patron saints of the priests who have taught me and influenced me to become a better person. I have well over 50 and you have been in that list for quite a while now. I haven’t forgotten the priests who prepared me for the sacraments and I won’t forget you.
Thank you for including me in your prayers. I have enjoyed answering your questions. It is heartwarming for me to see people who want to grow in faith
Yes, change is inevitable, sometimes we don’t like the change, but God is taking our life on another path. Fr Jeff, I want to thank you for all that you do for others, and especially what you have done for me in strengthening my belief in God, and following his teachings. You will be truly missed, are a very special and gifted person, where ever you minister they will be purely blessed. May God always be with you.
I truly believe that “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.”
I will truly miss you and the important role you have played in my faith journey. Our parish is lucky to have had you even for a short time, you have left an indelible mark. May God bless you always and bring you peace. We must all “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Thank you for your kind words and for seeking to grow in faith.
Thank you for positive words. May Gid continue to lead you on the path He has set you on.