PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


January, 2020

A Growing Awareness

                I entered the Jesuits not thinking of priesthood.  My love for physics was what landed me in the Society of Jesus.  Being ordained was part of the package.  It was significant for me, of course, but how it eventually grew in importance was a surprise to me.  In the middle sixties I left teaching physics and took up sociology and group process with a focus on the Catholic parish.  For the last 45-plus years my ministry has been as a resource and help to pastors, staffs and leaders as they tried to bring out the best in their parish communities.  For much of this time, being ordained was an asset that helped to legitimate my ministry but it was not the main focus. 

            In recent years I have grown to appreciate my priesthood much more. One example comes to mind.  While doing a weekend leadership retreat in a parish, I was asked to preside at the Saturday Vigil Mass.  At the time, I had a bothersome cold.  When the opening song began I realized that I could not sing a note, not a usual experience for me.  It was a humbling situation but a good one.  During my proclamation of the Gospel, I began to cough so badly that I had to stop in the middle of the reading to fetch a glass of water.  For the homily, which I did from the middle aisle, I took my water glass along with me, gesturing with it in my hand.  Once again, this time during the Eucharistic Prayer, I stopped to retrieve my glass of water from the stand next to the presider’s chair. The congregation, a rather small one in a huge church, was very patient and accepting of my predicament.  I think it was one of my better Masses because it was not all about me.  Quite the contrary; this one belonged to the people and to the Spirit that got me through it.  The story describes a few aspects of my priesthood that I have discovered in recent years.


Be Myself

            Although 80 years of age, I am still healthy enough to offer mini-retreats for pastors, staffs and leaders, and I am enjoying it a great deal.  Three areas of my present work relate strongly to my priesthood.  One is presiding at Masses in a number of parishes across the Milwaukee Archdiocese.  I have discovered that I love to preach and lead people in worship.  I pull apart the readings and discover details that bring the stories to life, but hopefully without putting on airs or trying to impress others so much as to grow in understanding along with community.  I am who I am and am learning to let it go at that – nothing phony, contrived or put on.  It took me a while to get to this point and people have been responding well to this.


Connecting With Others

            Many priests are better at this than I am, but I’m learning.  Pope Francis has been such a model for me by the way he let’s go of his own agenda and turns to relate to the most unlikely persons in the crowd.  People’s lives are much messier than mine.  I need to listen to their joys and sorrows and let them change me.  If priesthood is to be Christ-centered, then that’s the way I need to shape my life as best I can.


A Relationship

            I firmly believe that we are meant to fall in love with God, Jesus, Spirit because that is what God keeps doing, falling in love with us.  Our God is not way out there somewhere.  Rather, it’s all about an intimate, loving, head-over-heels relationship.  All we have to do is show up and say, “Yes.”  I now realize that my priesthood is about helping people find God and fall in love.  But helping people fall in love with God is not the full scope of my priesthood.  There is always that next step which involves inviting people to listen to what God is asking of them as they grow into this relationship.  This usually means carrying this love of God to others and allowing them to love us and the God they see in us.  That is what I would like my priesthood to be..