Sunday, 4 June 2006

Musings on Moving Parish

I love the words that appear in the Breviary after Second Vespers today: 'So Eastertide ends' (which reminds me, I must make sure I change volumes of the Divine Office for tomorrow). Eastertide ended for me today in a rather poignant way.

Today I announced to the parish that I would be moving to pastures new in September. I better not post the name of the new parish here because, although they were told today they'd be getting a new assistant, my name will only be revealed next week. Their newsletter put it in a rather charming way: 'since the Ascension we have been praying for the refreshment and renewal which comes through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One result of this prayer is that we have a new Assistant Priest for the parish!'

It reminded me that clergy appointments are not just the result of high level meetings or ecclesiastical politics; for the next three years the Lord (through the Church) is calling and sending me to a particular parish to care for the souls of a particular group of people and, yes, to help in 'the refreshment and renewal which comes through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.'

Most people think that celibacy is the hardest part of being a priest, but obedience can also be hard. Priests typically get to know and love their parishioners and set up home there and then, just as they are feeling comfortable and secure, the bishop calls and asks them to move on and start the process all over again! This is not usually easy - but that's exactly how the Lord works. He constantly challenges us to break through our 'comfort zone.'

Being obedient is another way in which priests are 'counter-cultural' because, for most people, following my will is the ultimate goal. A priest's obedience is, actually, quite liberating - you don't need to worry about promotion or asserting your rights; you just leave the future in the hands of God and His Church (and hope human fraility doesn't intervene to make blatantly inappropriate decisions!!!).

It seems obedience means different things in different countries. My Australian friend (who sometimes leaves comments here under the name of 'Koala') says that in Sydney vacant parishes are 'advertised' in the Ad Clerum and priests apply to go there - the Archbishop then makes the final decision based on these applications. Moreover a parish priest is appointed for a fixed term (which can, of course, be extended). In England there is no formal consultation and you are told by the bishop where you will go. Nor is there a fixed period - some parish priests are moved after only a few years in one parish.

Parishioners have said very kind things to me today and it will indeed be hard to move from this parish after five very happy years. Luckily, I'm excited about my new parish and think I will work well with my new parish priest. On this occasion, at least, it is very easy to identify the voice of God with the voice of the bishop - but I realise this won't always be so easy!!!



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9:52 pm  

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