Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 28

All bureaucracies, whether government, business, academia, military, non-profits, or even the Church, have the same tendencies and internal dynamics. I mention this because on Wednesday and Thursday of this week I will be at Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Belton attending the NEW PASTOR’S TRAINING workshop.

Now I first became a pastor in August 1986 at St. Andrew’s Parish in Clemson, South Carolina. That was (and still is) part of the Diocese of Charleston, SC. The parish consisted of the three small churches that covered two entire counties (Oconee and Pickens) and the Campus Ministry at Clemson University.  I was very fortunate to follow a wonderful pastor, Fr. Bill Brimley, CSP, who left the parish in very good shape physically, financially, socially and spiritually, so at least I had a good example to follow.
However, I had hardly any other training on how to be a pastor. I asked the Paulist administration about some kind of course or training as I was beginning this new ministry, and they sent me a three ring binder with a self-taught course on how to pastor.  It wasn’t very good, so I never really had any formal training in this role.
Nonetheless, after seven years as pastor in Clemson, I became pastor of the Paulist Mother Church (where we were founded), St. Paul the Apostle in New York City, in midtown Manhattan.  I was pastor there for eight and a half years. During that time I oversaw the completion of an extensive interior renovation, the sale of $14 million worth of air rights, the construction of a new three-story ministry building, the renovation of the pipe organ, the air-conditioning of the church, and unfortunately I witnessed the attacks of 9/11.
After a six-month sabbatical, I then became pastor of Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, on the border between the Financial District and Chinatown. There I was involved in a major $11 million seismic retro-fit of the historic old cathedral.  After eight years as pastor there, I came to St. Austin in July of 2010, and have been acting like a pastor here ever since.
Having been “pastoring” for the last quarter century (except for the six month sabbatical), I was a bit surprised when I    received the invitation from the Diocese to attend the New  Pastors’ Workshop. The invitation made it clear that this is a command performance (“Because of the importance of this meeting, it is expected that you should attend…”). I checked with the Vicar General to make sure that including my name on the invitation list was not an oversight, and it was not.
So, finally I am getting the training to pastor that I requested 25 years ago. Well, better late than never! I hope that after this workshop I will finally figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing, and hopefully you will notice a marked improvement in my performance. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.
God bless! 

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