At the Masses last weekend, in my State of the Parish Report, I announced that Bishop Barres has accepted my request to retire as pastor here effective June 2019. I believe that the mission of the parish – to change lives through the Risen Christ – can be well-served in the future by a pastor with a fresh viewpoint and his own distinctive gifts. My retirement as pastor takes place at the end of June.
While I’ll be retiring from parish administration, I’m certainly not planning to retire from pastoral ministry. I’ll be living on Long Island and I intend that, in addition to offering my sacramental ministry in a parish (or several) that could use help from me, I’ll also use some of the specialized skills that I’ve trained in over the years – teaching, consulting with pastors and parish leadership teams, and writing. The Holy Work that secular priests such as I am are called to is the formation and sanctification of lay people – making “believers” into “disciples.” I have given my life to that, and intend to continue to do it in whatever ways are open to me until I drop. The particular work I’ll be doing will be in response to whatever opportunities God provides. Bishop Barres and I have had several conversations about that over the past few years.
For our parish my departure will mean two things: First, I anticipate that diocesan officials will visit later this winter or spring to get a sense of Our Lady of Grace and its needs; and what they report will figure in the recommendations the Priests’ Personnel Board will make to the bishop for the assignment of a new pastor here. You’ll hear more about that as the details of the process are announced. Second, our ministries (and my service) will continue through June just as they do now. I believe that what’s been put in place here over the years has laid an excellent foundation for our parish to continue to flourish.
When I came to Our Lady of Grace in 2005 I announced that I hoped to serve two full terms (twelve years) before leaving, so that I could offer the parish some stable service and consistent guidance. It turns out that Bishop Murphy and then Bishop Barres have appointed me to serve two years beyond that time, and now I believe that my hope is substantially accomplished. The leadership of the parish – Pastoral Council, Trustees, Finance Council, ministry leaders – have proven themselves dedicated and knowledgeable and skillful in taking us through some hard times; and parishioners are likewise stepping up to do what each can. The current team of employees is competent, friendly, and dedicated. Our finances, while always precarious, are stable; we have money in the bank; and our buildings have, thanks to your generosity, seen considerable refurbishment during my term of service. I am confident that I leave Our Lady of Grace in good hands and in good condition.
Between now and June we have the Lord’s work to do, and we need to continue to do it. As Saint Paul says to the church at Corinth:
I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave the growth. In this, neither the planter nor the waterer counts for anything, only God.
– I Cor 3:6-7
Forty-seven years ago the invitation to my ordination as a priest also quoted Paul writing to that same church in Corinth:
This is how one should regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mystery of God.
– I Cor 4:1
I hope I’ve done that for you. Over the next few months I will, by God’s grace, continue to. Until next week, peace.