By the time you read this, or at least shortly thereafter, Bishop Zubik will have announced the groupings for On Mission for the Church Alive. We have been praying and preparing for quite some time now, and it will be good to move on to the next step. Yet as I sit down to write this column, we are still waiting. I would like to offer a comment on what is happening, but I cannot write about what I have not heard. I feel like I am taking a test on a book I have not read. So I would like to offer a few general comments on what is happening.
First of all, I hope that the time we have spent on this process has helped us realize that something has to happen. We cannot continue with the way things have been. The decline in population, the secularization of our society, and the concomitant decline in priestly vocations mean that we can no longer staff or sustain the parishes we have had in the past. Yet it is vitally important that we never forget Christ’s promise to remain with His Church all days. We may not be as strong as in the past, at least as the world judges strength, but we are still the People of God. We still trust that Holy Spirit will be with us. Bishop Zubik has made prayer a hallmark of this process, that we may trust in the Spirit. He has also called us to evangelization. The final goal of On Mission is not to “circle the wagons.” We are seeking to build that can reach out to all people and be true signs of God’s concern for His people all through the community.
As much as we have done to prepare, we know that change is hard. There is going to be a real adjustment, no matter what our grouping is or what clergy serve these parishes. I have been transferred quite a few times in almost thirty-two years of priesthood, and I know that every move has been an adjustment. Yet every move has been a blessing for me. I am particularly thankful to have spent these past four years here at St. Malachy, but I know that wherever I end up, I have the opportunity to do priestly work and to serve Christ and His Church.
Assuming that I am moving on, we will all be eager to see who is coming here. Please pray for the priests who will be part of St. Malachy beginning in October, and please offer them your support. The new priests will bring their own talents and skills to this ministry. Some things will continue as we have done them, and some will change. We pledge to work with the priests assigned to us and to reach out to the people of the other parishes in our grouping. We truly are on mission. Let us trust that Christ will allow us to continue as a Church Alive.