Sunday, April 25, 2004

Sensing dollar signs
This post is probably NOT headed where you might think. I received the official letter Friday that, effective May 3, I am appointed pastor of the parish where I currently serve as associate pastor. This new office comes four years and ten months after my priestly ordination. And with the impending reality of the responsibilities of being pastor, a new and strange phenomenon is happening in my brain. As people come forward with little suggestions, ideas, and observations, suddenly all the input is being interpreted as dollar signs! As in, this is all going to cost money and the buck will soon stop here! Yikes!

The new contacts in the local community I made participating in The Sound of Music will bode me well and I hope they will continue to increase. I don't have a formal pastoral plan decided yet -- I do have lots of ideas which I need to prioritize -- however, I know that increasing the visibility of the parish in the local community is a goal. And it can be easily accomplished at first with simple matters like having our sacramental schedule published in the paper where all the other ecclesial communities have theirs printed. I am also going to call or visit the local hotels because a parishioner told me last night that the Catholic schedule isn't provided at those places. I suppose I should also begin attending the Ministerial Alliance meetings, a monthly meeting of the local denominational clergy.

This pastorate will be a significant challenge. This parish is certainly larger than the typical parish given a first time pastor in this diocese. We have 823 registered families, I am told. In addition, we have countless Hispanic families not registered. I will be responsible for an associate pastor who is a priest from India ordained longer than I have been. We have two mission parishes, one an hour away and one twenty minutes away. And the biggest challenge of all -- the one that really worries me in the midst of my excitement -- is the need of the Hispanic peoples who make up the majority of the parish. I am by no means fluent in Spanish and a good number of the majority speak no English at all. I need to verify, but I fear that the Indian priest speaks even less Spanish than I do. The moral weight of this challenge is brought to my attention considering that as a pastor I must now sign once again the Oath of Fidelity and the Profession of Faith. I first signed these, as all clerics do, before my ordination as a transitional deacon. Now, in assuming an office to be exercised in the name of the Church, Canon Law requires that I sign them again. I do so willingly and with joy, but with an awareness of a certain gravity. It will come as no surprise that future posts will turn to my early experiences as an inexperienced pastor!

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