Even though next week is Father’s Day,
I think fatherhood is the idea I want to focus on this week.
I’m going to talk about a couple of different things
that aren’t obviously linked, but the connection really is “fatherhood.”
Let me start with the “Beacons of Light” planning process
which the Archbishop is leading, regarding how best to provide
for the 200-plus parishes of the Archdiocese.
First: what’s going on? The answer is that many of our parishes,
as currently configured, are not healthy.
If you measure things by our local situation, that may surprise you.
But we’re part of an Archdiocese that covers 19 counties,
and many places are facing a very different situation.
We talk about a shortage of priests, and that’s a real problem;
but in many places, the bigger shortage is of people;
and that means a shortage of volunteers and material resources.
This “Beacons of Light” project is about taking a big-picture approach
rather than dealing with it piece-meal.
As I said, this isn’t ONLY about not enough priests,
but that is part of it; specifically, about having enough PASTORS –
that is, priests who are in charge of parishes.
So here’s something you may not have thought about:
Not all priests are cut out to be PASTORS.
We have good, holy priests who are either too new,
or else they just don’t have the skills to run a parish.
We have 110 priests serving as pastors right now.
But 58 of them are over 60 – that more than half!
And that means they will all be eligible to retire in the next ten years.
Of those pastors over 60, 20 of them are, in fact, over 70 –
that means they are at or past retirement age;
even if they don’t want to retire, they may have to, at any time.
Meanwhile, we’re ordaining an average of four priests a year;
But those new priests are not going to become pastors immediately
and they shouldn’t!
New pastors can do damage if they lack seasoning.
I first became a pastor when I had been ordained only two years.
I made some serious mistakes; it wasn’t intentional,
and I not blaming anyone but myself, but experience matters.
Right now, today, the Archbishop has no “bench,” no back-up.
He’s brought in priests from Africa and India,
some of whom will be returning to their native countries.
We can’t kick the can down the road any longer.
So what’s all this mean for Saint Remy?
Let’s start with the bad news.
It seems almost certain that at some point in the next ten years,
the Archbishop will group our parish with one or two other parishes,
and we will share two priests, but only one will be pastor.
And if you wonder why, if there are going to be two priests,
why not have both be pastors?
Because that second priest will be someone fresh from the seminary,
or even an older priest, who isn’t otherwise suited to be pastor.
This has long been a possibility; I think it will finally happen.
The rest of your questions I can’t answer.
I can’t say which other parishes we will be grouped with.
The Archbishop is sorting through the situation in all 19 counties,
and he will propose some groupings this September,
at which point we’ll all see them and be able to give input.
If you ask we’ll be “clustered,” that depends on things no can predict.
My health is good, but I can get sick and so can other priests.
Here’s what I think is good news and should reassure you.
I mentioned how in many places, parishes are emptied out.
They don’t have much happening; they lack volunteers and money;
and they are situated within miles of other parishes in the same boat.
None of that describes us.
So the kind of re-organizing that is likely to happen elsewhere
is not reasonable to expect or fear here.
For example, when I was in Piqua,
we did combine two religious education programs into one,
and combine offices. But those parishes are ½ mile apart;
and there was a critical shortage of willing volunteers to teach CCD.
None of that applies to Russia.
I started by talking about fatherhood.
When we talk about our larger society,
we’re facing a critical shortage of true fatherhood.
One of the things that makes our local community healthy
is that we don’t face a plague of absent fathers.
That is directly tied to the health of this parish
and of this northern part of our Archdiocese.
This helps explain why our area generates more vocations,
as the example of genuine fatherhood inspires more spiritual fathers.
The readings highlight how great things
can come from small, even discouraging, beginnings.
The devil wants to discourage us and panic us;
Not just about changes in our parishes, but in our society as a whole.
Jesus calls us to keep calm and keep confident in his leadership,
no matter what else is happening.
This Friday, I invite all men of all ages, from 1 day old to 100 years old,
to participate in our annual prayer walk.
We’ll meet between 5-5:30 pm in the main parking lot.
This year we’ll car-pool out to Loramie-Washington Road,
So we’ll be glad for as many vans and big cars as possible.
As before, our walk will be all about praying for our community.
Our task as men is to guard and guide, including spiritually.
Over time, we will complete a circuit all around the parish.
We’ll have rides for those who can’t walk the route.
Then we’ll share fellowship afterward.
It’ll be hot; it’ll be tiring, and you may be tempted to think,
what good does this do?
All I can say is that we will be faithful and trust Jesus
to make the seeds of faith grow in this community.
That is what you and I are called to do.