First of all, I want to say a special THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS to all Mothers and Grand-Mothers and God-Mothers on this Mothers’ Day. You deserve a “thank you” every day. So for all our Mothers, both living and deceased, we pray for abundant blessings on you. THANKS!
Today, May 13, also marks the 40th Anniversary of the Ordination to the priesthood of Fr. Dick Sparks and myself. The other remaining member of our class is Fr. Pat, Hensy, CSP, whom some of you old-timers may remember served on the staff of St. Austin Parish from 1991 to 1992, then at the University Catholic Center from 1992 till 2000. He is now in residence at a nursing home in Los Angeles, CA.
Reflecting back on 40 years of priesthood, I must say that is was never dull and hardly ever boring. My first assignment as a deacon and then as a priest was at St. Nicholas Parish in North Pole, AK. It was quite a change from the years I had spent in high-school and then university and then seminary. But it was also quite educational. I learned a lot about being a priest from the good people of St. Nicholas Parish. And it was there I participated in my first building project, helping to plan and construct the church that is still in use there.
I next went to a very different setting, Old Saint Mary’s parish in the south end of the Loop in the heart of Chicago. Whereas in North Pole I could call up a parishioner family and invite myself over for dinner, in Chicago everyone lived in apartments, and so the dynamics were much different. If I got invited out to dinner it was to a restaurant. In Alaska, at a church gathering the men would all congregate to one side and discuss hunting and trucks and weather while the women met on the other side of the room discussing children, shopping and weather, but in Chicago groups were much more gender mixed, and tended to be discussions about business, politics (for which the City of Chicago provided ample material), and the weather. Everybody talks about the weather.
Following Chicago I had my only “foreign” assignment. I went to Toronto for six months to fill in for a priest who had left abruptly. I was expecting to go to Los Angeles, but after I had shipped my stuff to L.A., I got reassigned to Toronto. Anyway, I very much enjoyed my time at the Catholic Information Centre in Toronto, working with another classmate, who subsequently left the priesthood. I don’t think it was because of me.
I then had seven great years in my first pastorate at Clemson, SC. We covered two whole counties, with three small churches, and where Catholics were less than 3% of the local population. It was beautiful country and parishioners had a strong sense of ownership of their faith. Pastor at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City was my next stop. I arrived at an unhappy time in the parish, when the previous pastor, who wanted to stay, was removed by the Paulists. They were also in the middle of a major interior renovation. It was never dull!
Eight years in San Francisco followed, which I very much enjoyed. We finally brought to a close a long-standing requirement that the Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral be seismically upgraded. After eight years and $11 million dollars, we got a 5”x8” plastic plaque stating we were upgraded.
Then I came here to St. Austin’s eight years ago. It has been a wonderful experience. Next week, at the Paulist General Council meeting, I fully expect to be renewed as pastor here for another FOUR years. So you aren’t free of me yet. In any case, being a priest and a Paulist is NOT boring!