Monday, July 2, 2012

My Last Night As an Associate Pastor

For the rest of my life until retirement, barring getting sent away for further schooling or something like that, I'll be a pastor of a parish.  It is kind of intimidating sitting here on the verge of it all waiting for it to get started.

In the seminary, when I thought of life after ordination, it was just this big continuous thing that I thought of as "priesthood" but I've since realized that there is a gigantic difference between being an associate pastor and a pastor.  I have been telling people it seems a lot like a couple preparing for marriage who only thinks about marriage, and doesn't think about the gigantic shift that takes place when a child is born that you are suddenly responsible for.  Tonight, packing up, I feel like the dad driving home from the hospital with a new kid in the back seat - I probably should have seen this coming, but nothing could have prepared me for it anyway.  I think it is also a good analogy because a parent is not "in charge" of their child nor is a parent meant to "rule" in the domineering or lording sense of the word - a parent is asked to care, for a short time, the life of the child, to protect it, teach it, feed it, and be a good steward of the child God has put into the life of parents - in the same way a pastor should come to "serve, not to be served" as Jesus instructs in the Gospel - I don't take over a kingdom tomorrow, God asks me to care for several parishes tomorrow for a short time, like the vineyard worker asked to care for a vineyard until the master returns. 

It is at times like this where I entrust myself to God's Providence, that belief that somehow God is steering my life and preparing me for things even though I am often unaware of His action and his preparation at the time.  I guess you just dive in to being a pastor and believe that God will make good come out of it and will guide and direct it.  It is still an intimidating dive.

Please pray for myself and my classmates who start as pastors tomorrow as well - Fathers Peter Marshall and Sean Danda - I can promise the parishes where we arrive tomorrow - if there is any anxiety about what your new priest will be like, know that the anxiety and wonder and excitement and fear is just as equally present in our minds as well about what type of pastors we will be.

Our Lady of Providence, pray for us.


  1. Prayers, Padre! What an exciting transition.

  2. You're in my prayers, Father. :)

  3. Many prayers for you and all starting this new journey!

  4. Father John,

    I wish you the best at your new "homes." Your new parishes are blessed to have such a wonderful pastor. I always enjoyed your homilies at St. Malachy. I will continue to follow your blog.

    Take care and may God bless you!

  5. God watch over you and your classmates in your new roles as pastors. You will be missed here at St. Malachy, and we will pray for you.

  6. Father, I thought about you and so many awesome priests I know last week while I was at St. Meinrad. After being there for only 5 days, I can see why it produces so many holy men to lead us. You are an amazing priest who has already helped so many of us "Rediscover" our faith. Continue to be humble and continue to be obedient, and God will give you all you need. We will be praying for you and all priests at Ritter. God Bless, Jeni

  7. Father John, you are in the prayers of many people... More importantly in the hands of God. As we pray for you, please pray for the many of us who follow you via Facebook and your blog that we too would be good examples to the world around us as you have been for many of us.
    God bless you Father I wish you were coming to my Parish :)

  8. I'm sure you'll be grand!

  9. God Bless you Father!!! We will be praying for you! Stand firm on The Rock; don't let the possibly well-intentioned liberals you come in contact with dilute your firm stance on anything. As Fulton Sheen said, "Right is always right and wrong is always wrong!"

  10. You are going to be a wonderful pastor, Father! Good luck - may God bless and keep you as you take this duty!

  11. May God bless you in your new ministry!

    There is a huge difference between associate and pastor-- working hours, for one thing. And then there is the little thing called money...
    I don't know how much preparation you received for being a pastor in the seminary. In mine, there was virtually nothing and none of the seminary profs had been pastors, so there was no experiencial knowledge to share either. FWIW suggested reading list:

    1) your diocese's personnel policy (clergy and lay)
    2) your diocese's financial handbook/policy
    3) the canons from the Code of Canon Law regarding the responsibilities of a pastor. They are very thorough, not just in temporal affairs but also in spiritual ones.
    4) a basic accounting book. I read "Accounting for Dummies," from the "Dummies" book series. It was of great help to be an informed participant at parish finance council meetings.
    5) determine your parish boundaries.

    another comment with some personal advice coming...


  12. Just like new parents get tons of advice on raising kids, much of it conflicting, so do new pastors get conflicting advice from older pastors. Here's my two cents regarding the old saw "Don't change things for a year."

    My predecessor, who left me a well-running parish that was pretty conservative by CA standards, gave me that same advice, but he added the proviso "Make a little change: paint a door or something, just to get it in the people's heads that there is a new sheriff in town." That was good advice.

    I also made certain liturgical changes in the first year. Not so much things of personal preference but things that were not in accord with the GIRM, and backed up every change I made (because questions will be asked) with citing the GIRM. Most people here were surprised to know that the Mass has an "instruction book." Other things (more chant, for example), have been a slower process and involve education and training.

    This advice cost you nothing, so there's no warrantee on it! God bless, FrMichael

  13. Father, you will do well. You have received the sacrament of Holy Orders because you were not only chosen but you earned it. You and your peers have gained the respect of others because you did your best.

    My family and I wish you the best and will pray for all of you.

  14. For every journey begins with the first step....It is the deep breath before the plunge!!

  15. May God bless you, and the members of your new parish.