Saturday, May 10, 2008

What's keeping me busy...

Well, it's been a long time since I took keyboard in lap to give a "day in the life" post.

The long silence itself speaks volumes: the period from Lent to the end of the school year is one, long stretch of craziness in my two parishes, and I think frequently for other pastors. What makes it a little difficult is many think it gets better once Easter comes; I thought so, too, until I became a pastor! What also makes it difficult is the stuff I've added to my plate, beyond what would have been there already.

Here's a run-down, for inquiring minds:

> The obvious busy-ness of Lent and Easter, involving extra confessions, preparation for Holy Week, the preparation of the catechumens and candidates who received their sacraments and full initiation at the Vigil.

> Financial matters: about this time, we start preparing budgets for the school and the parishes. Actually the parish budgets are only very sketchily put together. They can only be finalized once we actually know how many children are enrolled, and how many from each parish, as the school is a joint project. The costs are alloted to each parish based on these figures, which only become firm in the fall.) Also, things have to gear up for parents to enroll in the school for the fall; and I have to make sure all tuition for the current year is caught up--unfortunately, some families straggle. Also, festival planning starts to kick into high gear about now. And, unfortunately, collections sometimes drop off after Easter, as people start heading for their summer haunts. This gets worse as we get past confirmation, first communion, and--the next two weeks--graduation.

> Special projects, oh have I a bunch of these! I have a couple of parishioners who volunteered to set up a "welcome committee"--and I am delighted, but I have to help them with that. I pitched parishioners to help form a stronger prolife committee, but again, we need to get them going.

I have been working with a group from both parishes on a stewardship commission; stewardship meaning, not, "give money" (that's what so many think it means), but rather, it's about inculcating a mindset that recognizes ones blessings of time, talent and treasure, which are given to us to share, and the parish is an important way we share them. Stewardship means fostering a climate and attitude throughout the parish that fosters and invites involvement; that cultivates a greater sense of belonging. If people are involved and feel at home in their parish, they will be more likely to: take an active role in all we do; involve others, leading to more evangelization; and they will naturally share their gifts with the parish.

Well, I really believe this sort of emphasis is important for the long-term; yet in many ways, I've failed to give it due attention. So many pots on the stove...

Another special project is the Corpus Christi Weekend, which is one week away, and no doubt I'm going to be flying by the seat of my pants all week, praying for no rain, at least for one hour next Sunday! If you're anywhere near Piqua, why don't you come on over and join the procession? See a post below for details.

> An increased volume of requests, needs, etc. It just seems like everyone is calling me about something, and I have been getting so much mail. You cannot believe how backed up I was only a few days ago. I couldn't even find time to open all the mail.

Well, that has all settled down somewhat, and I have a huge pile, not on my desk, but in my outbox. My secretary is going to yelp when she sees it!

I am very embarrassed to admit I'm way behind on thank you notes, which I've been writing today. I would be doing it now, but my hand was cramping up; typing is something different.

And I admit I am a bit superstitious: whenever "The Pile" gets this low, something always hits!

This is why I love, love, love a Saturday with no appointments! Today, however, I did have confessions at 9, then I promised to stop over at a fashion show fundraiser for the school. I have no clue about such things, but some parents enthusiastically put it together, and they got a great turnout the first time. I stopped by and greeted everyone and said grace over lunch. We also have a wedding, the other priest is offering the Mass, but that adds to the craziness of course. I'm hiding out in my office, working away! I have Mass in a bit, then free for the evening.

To all you young men thinking about the priesthood: you know what this is like? I think this is like...being a dad.

When I was a boy, I saw my dad go off to work, and I sometimes went with him, and I saw him at his desk, in the evening, working away; I only had a vague sense of what was so demanding. And I saw him working in the garden, and around the house...and then taking time to take the family out for dinner, for vacations, and of course we were brats, as original sin has its effect...

It involves a lot of work, on my father's part, and for what? For his family! This is what a father does. It's not glamorous, it's often thankless, but he did it, and he wasn't sorry he did it, it's what fathers do. And of course, there are any number of compensations and joys, but also sorrows.

Now, I don't mean to discourse on what being a father in the conventional sense means; 0thers are better suited to that. My point is, to be a priest is to be a father--that's why you're called that! And when you are a priest, and you have these days with work, and you get your share of grief, and you wonder if people appreciate what you do...then congratulations, you are a father!

I can't really complain, because while I do get some difficulties and some flak, it's not really all that much, and so many have far worse things happen to them. And I get lots of moments that are gratifying: celebrating confirmation and first communion; watching the children grow up and having a share in that; seeing how hard so many people work on so many things for the parish; seeing how great the faith of so many is; realizing how many people are quietly praying for you, constantly; getting lovely notes and presents, often sacrificial; seeing various plans come together, and knowing, this will last, this will make a difference. Not earthshaking, just building something in people's lives. It's how 99% of us will make our mark, if we actually do make a difference.

And there are very delicate moments, yet still so privileged. People come to you when in trouble. A divorce; a child in trouble. An infant that doesn't survive, and you are priviliged to baptize that infant but then you are asked to have the funeral. You get to see people cry with tears of pain, but also release, as they pray on such occasions, but also when they come to you for the anointing, or for confession, or they walk up for the Eucharist at Mass.

You bet I say, think about being a priest! It's not the only way to make a difference, but it's a great way; and if you think, "but I want to be a husband, a father" I'm telling you, if you are a true priest of Jesus Christ, you will be. That's what a priest is.


Esther said...

Beautiful reflection on the priesthood Father! I pray for all our priests daily. Sometimes we...I tend to forgot the priests who blog also are very busy at their parishes.
Mahalo for all you do.

Mara Joy said...

oh my goodness! don't scare me! Corpus Christi is in TWO weeks!

Mara Joy said...

(oops, sorry, I hadn't read the previous post!)

Father Schnippel said...

Keep being a good Dad, Father!

Barb said...

Wonderful post help us all appreciate our dear priests even more.

Deborah said...

I will print this and keep copies of it in my Bible for my boys as they seek out the Lord's purpose for their lives. What a beautiful testimony to the joyful sacrifice of a Godly vocation! Thank you for your words...and for your life.

Anonymous said...

Re the paragraph on stewardship:

If you can find a way to create a sense of belonging for each individual, you will keep all your members and gain countless new ones. The sense of anonymity and nonbelonging is one of the worst problems in the RC church.

I worked in RCIA for many years and we had a 60% dropout rate of new church members within their first year after Baptism and/or Confirmation. When asked, a good 90% of them cited "lack of a sense of belonging" as their reason for seeking other or former church affiliation and leaving the RC church.

When established members leave, the answer is often the same: "I didn't feel like I had a place there. No one knew me. No one talked to me. I got sick of being treated this way."

The Catholic church has a long way to go in understanding and promoting fellowship among members, but let's hope that changes and positive steps are taken to resolve this situation. Your committee sounds like a good place to begin! I wish you success with all my heart!

One suggestion would be to send a delegation to a Protestant service to observe the warmth and welcoming with which each individual is greeted upon arrival.
It goes way beyond the Catholic practice of a quick handshake & a how-ya-doin.