Tuesday, June 29, 2010
In Spanish the phrase "Adios" literally means "to God" but is commonly translated as "goodbye". Today is my last day as Vocation Director. Hard to believe that seven years have passed. So many memories of the 200,000 miles I've driven in that time, the thousands of miles I've flown, and the hundreds of people I have met along the way. "To God"! Every ministry within the Church ultimately is about the Kingdom of God, about holiness, about service. There were definitely days filled with great joy, just like last Thursday when Brian Hess, Daniel Poelma, and Robert Rodgers were admitted into Candidacy for Holy Orders; they made solemn promises to prepare diligently for priestly ministry four years from now. There have been lots of disappointments too when I really didn't think I was "doing this right" or the "right person for this ministry". Through it all I've experienced God's constancy and have realized ever more clearly that in all things God is the one who calls, nurtures, forms, and missions each person in a particular way. What a blessing for me that today, my last day, is the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul! The two greatest apostles who shaped the Church in indelible ways! Each of them matured in their ministry and their keen appreciation of Jesus' unique relationship with them and the ministry He entrusted to them. Each of us is a vocation promoter and the Holy Spirit is really the Director of our personal and corporate vocations. I'm excited for Fr. Bill Hill as he begins this tremendous journey and awesome ministry. I'm blessed to get to be the Pastor of St. Mary Magdalen parish in Worland. When I ponder my own vocation journey I really can't believe I've been loved so very much by God! It's been 15 1/2 years since I was ordained December 12, 1994! I've grown so much as a person, and as a priest! God has placed so many wonderful people and situations in my life that have transformed me and also have enabled me to serve those to whom I've been sent. The last seven years I've been particularly blessed by the people of St. Paul's Newman Center, St. Laurence O'Toole parish, St. Paul's Church in Pine Bluffs and the two missions I served in Albin and Carpenter. I've been edified and humbled by the seminarians who've allowed me to advocate for them and to walk with them as they've discerned God's call. I've had the privilege of working with Permanent Deacon candidates and with those discerning religious life. What a remarkable Church we have! What amazing "living stones" I've encountered in each parish in the Diocese. I'm so proud to have been associated with and encouraged by my fellow Vocation Directors along the way. I've been so gifted to have had the chance to minister with and for Bishop David Ricken and for a short time Bishop Paul Etienne. I really admire and cherish the ministry I shared with the Diocesan Staff and my fellow Directors. My life has truly been so richly blessed by the priesthood. I cannot even begin to imagine what my life would have been had I not answered His call. I can only pray that like St. Paul I am able to say, "I have fought the good fight; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith." I deeply love the Diocese of Cheyenne and the good people of Wyoming and am encouraged to know that we'll continue to foster a culture of vocations where each person is able to hear God's call and to live it to the full! I'm a huge fan of Star Trek and end this blog by looking to the future and living the motto "To Boldly Go..." enlightened by the adage, "All things in Christ." Adios!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
On Friday June 11th, Pope Benedict XVI brought the Year for Priests to an end during the celebration of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This has been a year of gratitude for the gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that is extended in every baptized person but in particular through the ministerial priesthood conferred by the rite of ordination. Pope Benedict intended this year to be an occasion for priests to grow in holiness by focusing on the person of Jesus Christ the Great High Priest who is the model of priesthood for all of us. It was also to have been an occasion for intercession for our priests on the part of every person. As the Vocation Director I felt a particular urgency about this year. Only deep faith and an appreciation of who Jesus really is, can inspire a young man to open his heart to hear God's call and then to give his life away in loving service through, with, and in Jesus. This is where each of us is constantly invited into silence. We are called to dialogue regularly with God in private prayer and also in the celebration of the mass. It is there that we realize anew the God of the call!
For the Diocese of Cheyenne this has been a year full of unmistakable blessing! In August Fr. Rob Spaulding was ordained to the priesthood, in December Bishop Paul Etienne was ordained as our new bishop, and on May 24th Fr. Tim Martinson was ordained a priest! Two priests and a Bishop! Not bad for the least populated diocese in the contiguous United States! On a personal note, this was my seventh year as Vocation Director so it was my jubilee year! What a terrific year! Lots of amazing successes and cause for encouragement. I honestly believe that Jesus is still calling men to heroic gift of self in the service of the Church and of society. I see this in the quality of seminarians that we have for this diocese and of the men considering the call. We'll have 10 seminarians this year and each one could definitely be successful at other endeavors but has heard God's call and is striving to answer it.
One of the most profound gifts to me is to be a member of the presbyterate, order of priests, who serve the Diocese of Cheyenne. We just returned from our annual priest retreat and I am constantly humbled and inspired by each priest's gift of self. Every story is different but at the heart of each is the experience of God's ineffable love that called them into service as a ministerial priest. Also the unmistakable role of our Blessed Mother has animated and informed each of our lives. I am truly proud to be a priest of this diocese!
This is my last month as Vocation Director. On July 1st, I'll turn over the reigns to Fr. Bill Hill and entrust to him and Bishop Etienne what I have so keenly been aware of: the stewardship of the mystery of God's call! We have so much to be grateful for and so much to do. The future for the Diocese of Cheyenne is one filled with challenge. From 1968-1976 there were no ordinations to the priesthood. The class of '68 is now beginning to retire. So the need for active vocation ministry and open hearts is still very much at hand. The exciting aspect to vocation discernment is captured in Ps 37: "If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure. If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant you your heart's desire." God seeks only to give us our fullest joy and true happiness! In nearly 16 years of priesthood and at the conclusion of my 7th year as Vocation Director, I can honestly say that this year has definitely been a wonderful Year for Priests!