Recently in our diocese the Spring Clergy Assignments were announced. It is with great joy that I have celebrated "the passover" once again and was not visited by "the announcement". In this vocation, you never know when the call will come, although I think that you should be consulted. Our changes involved one man retiring (he taught me a great deal in my final summer deacon assignment where he served as a young assistant). There were three pastors transferred (two also continuing to serve as the bishop's representative to their Deanery and the other continuing in the Liturgy Office). These three moves involved some of the largest parishes in our diocese. One man became pastor for the first time. Another pastor became pastor/administrator with the partnering of two of our parishes, in addition to his two other major roles (Tribunal and Mission Office). One newly arrived priest from the Philippines was welcomed as a regional Parochial Vicar. There were a few other minor readjustments. A small but significant reassignment of our clergy personnel. One of the above pastors had been in his assignment for many years and had just led the parish in rebuilding the parish church and is also nearing retirement age. I was surprised that he was moved. I have a priest friend now retired that always said that you could be replaced at any time, and it is true.
When I was younger, I found myself in certain assignments that were great, and my time there was something that I hoped would continue. The work that was being done, the accomplishments heralded, the desire to remain led one to believe that you might be untouchable or even more misleading, irreplaceable. But that is never the case. All of us must someday move on. All of us will see the work we have witnessed be placed in the hands of another. And that is not always easy.
These men in these recent changes place themselves at the service of the Church. Whether because of need or retirement or illness or death or a fall from grace, one generation after the next finds themselves replaced and the Church continues ... and that is because we come to do, not our will, but the will of the one who sent us (think Lord, not necessarily bishop - no offence, Bishop Brandt).
On Wednesday of this week we celebrated the feast of Saint Matthias. His job was to replace one of the Twelve, Judas, who had fallen from grace and abandoned the Twelve through betrayal. The completeness of the foundation blocks of the Church had to be accomplished, and Matthias was chosen. He did more than "fill a gap", he entered into the lived experience of bearing witness to the Risen Lord, he became one of the Twelve, sharing equally with them the task entrusted to "go out to all the world and tell the Good News". When his day would come, he would be replaced by another, chosen to do this same work. Over and over again we do our best, we relinquish the ministry, and another steps up to the plate. And the Church continues. If we do our part well, then we bring strength to the Body of Christ.
Pray for these men who were asked to move on, pray for the people who need to find comfort and security in their new shepherds, pray for all priests, and pray with great confidence for the strengthening of the Church in these challenging times.