On New Pastors

Holy Family Church, Granite City, Illinois

Our home parish welcomes a new pastor today. In fact, all around our diocese, parishes are welcoming new pastors. Today is the “Day of the Big Move” each year, and this year is the biggest in about a decade in our diocese.

The last move ten years ago was tough on us. We deeply loved our pastor at the time, and he had been instrumental in bringing both Suzanne and me back to the church, and led us through marriage prep and presided at our marriage.

But on Day 1 when our new pastor Father Jeff arrived, there was no question that he was our pastor. The Holy Spirit had sent an amazing priest who we also came to love deeply. I still remember that on his very first Sunday, he made a point at the 11:00 Mass that pastors shouldn’t change anything big for their first six months or so, but there was one thing that he absolutely had to change immediately: The tabernacle was tucked away to the side in our church on Mary’s altar, and he insisted that we move it back up to the center immediately. (YES!) Right after Mass, I remember running around the church to gather a crew of the strongest men I could find, and then leading them over to Father and saying, “we’re ready to help you move the tabernacle.” Such is the spirit of our parish.

Yesterday we said goodbye to Father Jeff as our pastor. The last few times our Joseph (3rd oldest at 10 years old) saw Father Jeff, he just wrapped his arms around him, eyes filled with tears. Father Jeff is the only pastor Joseph has ever known, and Father Jeff has fostered a love of serving at the altar in Joseph and my other sons, and the seeds of possible vocations in them. This has led to a lot of great discussions about different priests and pastors we’ve known, and the different strengths and talents they bring, as well as the different memories we have with each of them.

Father Jeff has been such a wonderful priest and extended member of our family. We’re so thankful to God for his time with us, and we’re going to miss him terribly. But we also know that he has gifts that a new parish needs.

Today we welcome our new pastor Father Steve. We’re eager to see what gifts the Holy Spirit is sending to our parish with him! We can’t wait to meet him and welcome him in a special way into our parish and our family.

Whatever you do, remember that these moves are hard on our parish families, but they’re also hard on our priests. Pray for your parish, and pray for your priest and all priests! Introduce yourself to your new priest. TELL them you’re praying for them – and then DO it! Welcome them. Invite them over to dinner. Share with them a gift card to your favorite local quick bite or ice cream shop. Ask what you can do to help – and then do it.

We’re on this journey of intentional discipleship together. The Holy Spirit has worked through our bishop to send these men to new places where they’re needed. Let’s continue to pray and work through how these changes help make us stronger parishes and stronger intentional disciples.

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