Jul 11, 2015
Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
Last Sunday we shared the sad news that Fr. Paul is returning to Chicago. It has been a real blessing to have him present here in our community, and especially, preaching on a regular basis. Not only does it give you all a break from hearing me (ok, you don't have to agree quite so much), but it also gives me a chance to be on the receiving end of a sermon. You would be surprised, and probably saddened to know how many priest never hear anyone preach. I am a firm believer in that if you want to be a good preacher, you have to listen to other preachers. The other great thing about having Fr. Paul here is, of course, the presence of a Black priest on the altar. I have been very grateful for his willingness to make time in his calendar for us. I hope he is able to continue to do so once he gets settled in Chicago.
Fr. Paul has been stationed here in St. Louis for the past 3 years doing formation work. He recently mentioned to his newly elected provincial that, while he appreciated the importance of his current ministry, he missed pastoral work, i.e. being with the people of God. Initially his provincial asked him to do one more term, but then had a change of heart and realized that the Dominicans needed to share Paul's gifts with God's people. Being a former preacher, his provincial understood that yearning.
I really respect Paul's provincial for being willing to make this change sooner, rather than later. It can be very hard to find good formation directors. The best formation directors are guys with good ministerial experience and gifts. The very guys that would rather be out ministering with the people. In religious life there is always a tug between what we call internal and external ministry. No one (well hardly no one) gets ordained to sit in a provincial office or work on province finances or even in formation. Most men envision themselves ministering to the people of God in one way or another. But the other jobs have to be done, especially formation, or we won't have any future priests.
I am sure the Dominicans are grateful for these years that Paul gave to this important ministry, and I am sure the students he helped direct are better for it. I certainly wish him well as he heads back into parish ministry and want to assure him that there is always a place in our pulpit for him. God's speed.
In the Gospel today, Jesus sends the disciples out 2 by 2 to preach the Gospel. They come back excited with wonderful stories. Ministry is not always what you expect, I certainly never envisioned myself here at The Rock when I first entered the seminary, but I can't imagine my life without these wonderful years. Yes, there are times when the priesthood can be difficult, it can be lonely one minute and the next you can't find a moment even to pray. You can't always do what you want to do or go where you want to go, but that is what trusting God is all about. There will always be people who do not understand what it's all about. You'll never be able to please everyone, but who can? When it is all said and done, the good times far outweigh the hard ones. It is a life filled with grace and blessings. And the privilege of walking the journey with so many good people, at highest and lowest moments of their life is something that no other lifestyle can equal. It can be very humbling. It is just sad that more people do not consider it, because it truly can be a wonderful life.
In the Redeemer,