Sunday, May 16, 2010

Feeling Sad

We learned yesterday that our Pastor is being moved to a parish in the outskirts of our Archdiocese, nearly an hour's drive from here.

He's been with us 8 years, so we shouldn't have been surprised. One of the things I like least about this Archdiocese is the constant moving of priests. I grew up in a diocese (on the east coast) that did not have this policy, and consequently, with the same priest my entire childhood. There are good and bad parts to that policy, of course, but when you really love your pastor, when he's truly a good and holy man, when you can trust him and his counsel, the moving-around part is more bad than good.

I held it together pretty well when I heard the news. It was, actually, the second piece of bad news for the day, and I had just met up with DH back at the church (him, wet from the parish golf tournament in non-stop rain; me, knotted stomach from bad news #1 that I could not discuss with him on the phone). A friend whispered the "rumor" to me on the way into the building. Downstairs, the whole place was buzzing with it. I asked one of the office staff if it were true. When she nodded, red-eyed and tear-splotched, I muttered a curse word. Someone nearby responded, "that's not a nice word, but it does sum up how I feel." I apologized for the word, but not the emotion.

Pastor showed up a few hours later. DH and I got a few minutes alone with him. He, blessed man that he is, unknotted my stomach regarding bad news #1, and commiserated with us on bad news #2. And he raved about his replacement, which was very gracious of him. New Pastor will have some very loved shoes to fill. I need to remember that as I pray for him in his new role as our pastor. He is leaving a parish where he's been pastor for 13 years... I'm sure there's mourning over there, too. (At least, I hope so. Not so sure I'd want the pastor whose going-away party was a celebration by parishioners after he left).

What breaks my heart the most (and really, it's already broken by the thought of his leaving), is that he will be so far away. He's a regular at our house for dinner. We email each other articles that the other would like. He and DH like to go to the movies together. He's so much more than our pastor. He's our friend. And, so, we'd been preparing ourselves a bit for his eventual transfer, but always with a thought that he'd be nearby. We live in a section of the Archdiocese that is inundated with Catholic Churches. I can throw a ball from my street corner and break stained glass in 5 different Catholic Churches. (Ok, I can't really do that. As DH would tell you, I throw "like a girl." But my point stands. There are a whole bunch of Catholic Churches within a really short drive of here... many of which could use the financial acumen and holy leadership that our pastor has displayed). Why, why, why does he have to be moved so far away???? I looked it up on the map, and he's going to be one exit further than the tourist-site I haven't taken the kids to in 3 years simply because it's just so darn far away.

Which is so totally St. Louis of me.

I grew up in New Jersey, about an hour from New York, and hour and a half from Philadelphia. I went to college in Delaware, an hour from Philly and Baltimore, two hours from DC. I thought nothing about driving an hour or two in any direction at nearly any time. Sometimes, I'd drive to Baltimore for the afternoon, sit on the grass by the Inner Harbor and people-watch, grab a crab cake to-go at Phillips and drive back to campus. An hour drive was nothing.

And then I moved to St. Louis, and everything I needed or wanted was 20 minutes or less. And then, I got very involved in my parish, made good friends in the area, and found that we rarely spent more than 15 minutes driving anywhere. The 30 minutes to my mother-in-law's once a month started to seem long.

So, it looks like I'll have to go back to my roots. I still have some Jersey in me (I drive DH crazy because I refuse to refer to exits by their names; I go by numbers); I can make the trek out there to catch up with my friend.

In the meantime, I'll try to focus on the blessing he will be to that parish community, school, and town. It really is selfish of me to want to keep him here. Someone as in love with the Lord as he is, who lives his faith with quiet strength and deep hope, shouldn't be kept in one quiet little parish. I'm sure the folks in Tarsus, in Phillippia, and throughout Asia Minor felt similarly about St. Paul. They must have reveled in his inspiring leadership while he was with them, and mourned his loss when he moved on. But, he had work to do -- important work, growing Christ's Church -- and he needed to move on in order to do that.

My humble and gentle Pastor would blanche at being compared to St. Paul, but this little blog is my space, so I get to publish it anyway.

May you feel Christ's presence with you as you go, dear friend, and may the Holy Spirit guide you in leading your new parish.


  1. But what a blessing to have a priest you love. And an hour away isn't that far.

    Moving priests has its benefits. It gives another parish a chance to exprience a great priest and it gives a priest a chance to start over and grow.

  2. Mary,

    Thanks. You're right, of course. I know the people in his new parish are going to love him! He's a gentle and kind man, filled with the Spirit.

    And I am going to miss his regular presence in my life. Good-byes are hard.


  3. Jen,
    The selfish side of me wishes that this priest of yours were coming to my parish. I pray that God will send a priest like that for me to know.

  4. Oh Mary, now I feel uber-selfish! Even with the loss of our pastor, we still have an amazing priest in residence (who is also a close family friend, as well as my Spiritual Director). I can see that we've been TOTALLY spoiled with two Grade A Fantastic priests for the past 4 years.

    I will offer my sadness in prayer for you, and for all, who are looking for a supportive and encouraging priest to lead them.

    Thanks for the reality check. :)