I am not one to like change but I also believe change is a necessary part of life. There can be no growth without change.
Change has been a regular part of my life since I left my job with the New York State Department of Transportation to begin studies to become a priest. That was twelve years ago. It began with two years spent in Rochester while I studied philosophy and religion at St. John Fisher College and lived at Becket Hall with other men doing the same studies. I went from living alone to living in a house with six men. Then, I went to Theological College in Washington DC for seminary for two years. That was graduate school and living in a seminary with about 70 other men. Then I came back to Rochester for a pastoral year ministering full-time in a parish and living in a rectory with the pastor. Then, back to Washington, DC for my final two years of seminary. During seminary there were also various ministries that changed each year.
After ordination, my first assignment was at St. Mary’s in Elmira. I served two years with one pastor before he was assigned to another parish. Then, I served one more year at St. Mary’s with the new pastor before I was reassigned to Our Lady of the Lakes. After just one year at Our Lady of the Lakes a new pastor arrived. In five years as a priest I have served in two (very different) parishes with four different pastors. Lots of change!
Soon it will be time for another change. Regular readers of my blog know that I have been named as the new pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca, NY. While the official change does not happen until June 26th, unofficially the transition has already begun.
A couple of weeks after I received the appointment from the bishop, I went to Ithaca for a tour of the parish and to begin to learn about the parish. I have received emails and blog comments from several parishioners. Most of these were simple words of welcome but a few with about summer activities. There is a new hiring in progress in which I have been involved. All this while I continue to minister at Our Lady of the Lakes.
With time growing shorter, my ministry at Our Lady of the Lakes is tapering off as I am not planning for new activities here but there are still plenty of Masses to say, funerals and weddings, and I am trying to make sure someone is aware of the various tasks I have done here so it can be a smooth transition to the new parochial vicar here.
What is really on my mind centers not just on the change of parishes but the change of position. At Our Lady of the Lakes, I have served as the Parochial Vicar. For those unfamiliar with this term, it means I am a priest serving under a pastor. I can do all the same priestly functions as the pastor but he is in charge.
When I arrive at Immaculate Conception Church, I will be the pastor. I will be the one charged with the direct responsibility of the parish and the spiritual care of the parishioners. There will be administration and building maintenance to tend to but God and the people is what it is all about.
It is not a responsibility I take lightly. I have been thinking and praying (a lot) about it. I’m not going in with some grand plan. I will need to listen to the people and to God. Ultimately, it is all about helping people to deepen their faith and relationship with God.
Of course, at the same time, I am changing assignments, all the parishioners in both parishes are going through change too. That change means something different for each person.
It’s a lot to think about. That’s why as I prepare for this change, I’m putting my faith and trust in God.