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Leadership Changes

I present my homily for today (May 20, 2012 – 7th Sunday in Easter, Year B) here because, building from the first reading, I talk about how we select leaders in the church and government.  If you have never heard about how pastors or bishops are selected you might enjoy reading this.  If you are reading this from outside the Diocese of Rochester please note the process for selecting pastors can be different from diocese to diocese.

7th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Acts 1:15-17, 29a, 20c-26
1 John 4:11-16
John 17:11b-19
May 20, 2012

Jesus has been crucified, rose, spent forty days with his disciples, and just ascended to the Father.  The disciples have been a mission but told to wait for the Holy Spirit.

120 of them are gathered together when Peter stands up and begins to speak.  Peter is now leader of the disciples and he realizes what must be done.  The Apostles are not complete.  From scripture, Peter realizes they must replace Judas.

Peter could have picked someone himself but he doesn’t.  He does not act unilaterally.  In Jesus’ prayer in the gospel, Jesus prays that we all be one.  Peter seeks to work as a team.  He takes the initiative and states that Judas’ successor must have seen Jesus for himself.

Then the text changes from Peter “acting alone” to “they” propose two candidates and then draw lots, praying for God to name the twelfth Apostle.

Right now, we have a lot of leadership selection happening in different ways.  In the secular world, we have the election of a president that is all over the news (has been for a while and will continue to be).  The president is elected by majority vote (although this vote is distorted by the Electoral College process).

Here at Our Lady of the Lakes we are starting the process to select new members for our Parish Pastoral Council.  You can read about in the bulletin.  This will not be a majority vote.  We will be taking nominations from anyone in the parish.  The people nominated will be contacted to see if they are interested.  They will be an opportunity for them to learn what the Parish Pastoral Council does and how it operates.  Then, we will draw lots to select the new members.

Another leadership change we see is the selection process our diocese uses to name new pastors.  Sometimes people think the bishop decides unilaterally who to send, calls them up and gives them the order.  That’s not how it works.  In our diocese, a list of open pastorates is sent to all the priests and administrators.  Anyone interested can inquire and then submit a letter of interest.  There is a Personnel Board that meets, discusses the openings, and makes a recommendation to the bishop.  Then, the bishop is free to accept the recommendation or select another person.  Then he calls the person.

Of course, another leadership change we are looking at is our bishop.  Bishop Clark will turn 75 this July and will be retiring.  Some people think the Pope unilaterally selects the new bishop at his discretion.  The Pope does make the decision but it is a very involved process.

After Bishop Clark submits his letter to retire, all the bishops of our province (New York State) will be asked to submit nominations for the new bishop.  Each bishop can consult with whom he chooses but it is kept confidential.  The lists from all the bishops are assembled together.  Then, through the Apostolic Nuncio, the process continues by reviewing all the nominees for qualifications and the list sent to Rome.  On average it takes eight to fourteen months for the naming of a new bishop.  It is not a simple unilateral act by the Pope.

The selection of secular government officials like the president, the selection of a Parish Pastoral Council, a pastor, or a bishop are all very different processes.  But they do (or at least should) have something in common – discerning the truth.

In today’s gospel, Jesus asks the Father to keep and consecrate us in the truth.

The truth we seek in the selection of any of these positions is what does God want.  Where is God leading us?  Who is the right person to lead us there?

It isn’t about what we want or what we think the Church should be doing.  It’s about what God wants.  No majority needed.

Before I was appointed to be the next pastor at Immaculate Conception in Ithaca, I knew the position was open.  So, I thought about applying.       I asked myself what do I need to do to decide if I should apply.  I thought about all the human questions that I might like to ask to find out about the little “details” of the parish.  Then, I realized what I really needed to discern was not whether it was a good human match (the people liking the same things I do) but to know if it is God’s Will for me to go there.

I spent a lot of time praying about it and thinking about it.  In the end, I believe it is God’s Will for me to go there.  Since the bishop called me I have been over to see the parish and get to know more about it.  It will be a challenge but God will provide.

So I invite you to make God part of your decision-making process in the government elections this year.  Who will lead the country in accord to our morals and beliefs?

Pray about the people you know in our parish here and who might make a good Parish Pastoral Council rep.

Pray for the everyone who will be involved in the selection of our new bishop in the coming months.

Pray that God’s Will be done.

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