Summer often provides a good time to catch up on relaxing and on assessing life. Below, three friars who recently marked one-year anniversaries at their parishes offer their thoughts on caring for ourself, our resources, and for others. These reflections have been excerpted from July bulletins at the friars’ churches.
Kevin Downey, OFM, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Triangle, Va.
Last week, I realized that I have been here at St. Francis for one year. In some respects, it seems like only yesterday that I was pulling into the parish with all my belongings and, yet, at the same time it also feels like I have been here a lot longer than just a year.
I can truly say it has been a good year, but one that also has been very challenging for me both personally and professionally. Where I have found it challenging on a personal level is in the area of relationships and friendships. Leaving behind a faith community that I had been part of for 15 years, I found it to be very difficult. Over those years, I was blessed to have established so many friendships with people as I “walked with them” on their journeys through life sharing the good times as well as the bad. Leaving those friendships and starting all over again has been tough but yet as I look at the new friends that I have made this year I realize I am blessed and I am very grateful to God.
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, has written a book on the aging process, Falling Upward. He says that we spend the first half of life trying to gain people’s respect, trust, and confidence. We strive to prove ourselves, constantly seeking out the opinions and guidance of others. Then, we transition into what he calls the “wisdom age,” where we have that respect and trust and people seek us out for advice and guidance. As I look back on my professional or ministerial life, I spent a lot of time in the period of life where I felt I had to prove myself to others and to gain their respect and trust.
I felt I had begun to cross that line into the “wisdom age” at my former church, St. Mary in Pompton Lakes, N.J. I noticed that parish life was peaceful with no big dramas or fires to extinguish. I believe we achieved this because there was a high level of trust and respect for the parish leadership. Coming to St. Francis, I have realized that I am back in that “proving myself” phase of life again which is a bit frustrating at times. It will take time to gain the trust of the parish as everyone gets to know me and my style of leadership.
My dad once said to me that a good way to get a glimpse of the future is to look back at the past. So as I look toward the future, I know I have earned peoples’ trust in the past and I will do it again. It is all a part of the “aging process.”
Frank Sevola, OFM, St. Mary’s Parish, Pompton Lakes, N.J.
As the summer goes on, we still work hard to keep everything going in the parish. One of the important areas of ministry during the summer is peace camp and summer religious education. It’s great to have so many kids around during the summer weeks participating in these very important faith development programs.
It has also been a great year for me. This has been a terrific year of growth for me and I owe a great deal of that to this parish. In one short year you have taught me a great deal about being a friar, a priest and a pastor. It’s also been a lot of fun becoming a Jersey boy.
Our Gospel the next few weeks reminds us that we are called to minister to each other. We are called to forgive, to welcome, and even feed each other. As you go throughout your days, remember that we are called to minister to one another in these ways. Think of someone you need to forgive and pray for that person and for the strength to forgive. Reach out to someone who needs to feel your welcoming embrace. Maybe now is a good time to invite your friends who have fallen away to come back to church at St. Mary’s.
Take some time to feed your soul and to feed the hungry with a gift of food or money to our food pantry. The Gospel calls us to do these things all the time. Perhaps now is a good time to renew your commitment to these Gospel values.
James Vacco, OFM, St. Bonaventure Parish, Allegany, N.Y.
When I was a teenager, I used to drive my maternal grandmother to doctor appointments. Her reflection about her life at that point she summarized by saying, “Ever since I turned 70, I go to the eye doctor and have the cataracts taken care of. I think I’m fine, and then I need to go to the cardiologist because of an irregular heartbeat. That gets under control and I find my hip needs replacement. On top of that, I have arthritis bothering me more and more, and I go to the doctor for shots periodically.”
I share that story of my grandmother to make an association with the necessary work that needs to be done around the church and school buildings, part of which are more than 80 years old.
Last week at the parish council meeting, it was decided to adopt a three-year program of addressing the structural issues on the church and school, which were prioritized.
To accomplish this work on the classroom and the church will take approximately $100,000. The church leadership is discussing the various ways to finance this.
One of the least desirable parts of being a pastor is concern over finances. One of life’s realities is dealing with practical matters of buildings, properties, salaries, and the like. But while these practical things are necessary to address, a pastor’s first priority is spiritual consolation and direction of the parishioners.
Editor’s Note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes reflections from friars about seasonal topics including holidays, feast days and other topics.