Every Fall for as long as I can remember our priests have gathered for a Convocation, a two day gathering over three days (this year from Noon Wednesday through Noon Friday). We have covered the gamut and have experience "the best of times and the worst of times" as Dickens would say. We have had some great speakers and wonderful experiences, and during the time that I was involved in planning we also had "the convocation from hell", as we so lovingly describe one of our gatherings.
In recent years we have set our focus on the stress and strain of the clergy, and seem to have beaten that one to death, so much so that just discussing it again brings more depressing feelings. But this year was different.
This year we have new leadership with our new bishop, who I understand initiated some change in approach. This year we moved away from variations on the same topic and instead looked at the theme of mercy and reconciliation, preparing for Pope Francis' invite to a Holy Year of Mercy to begin on December 8th. This year we called upon the excellent services of two of our Benedictine brothers from Saint Vincent Archabbey instead of bringing in "experts from the outside", and the presentation from the new rector of Saint Vincent Seminary, Father Edward Mazich on the scriptural understanding of mercy and mercy as found in the sacraments by Father Tom Acklin were both outstanding. This year the guys seemed more relaxed and responsive to the needs and concerns of each other. This year had a clearly different tone.
I am most grateful to those who planned the convocation and to Fathers Edward and Tom for their presentations, and for our international priests and Benedictine brothers for strengthening and blessing our diocesan priesthood, and for a new pastor who serves us as our bishop. But most importantly, I am most grateful to a loving and gracious God who shares with us the mission of spreading the Good News and building up the Kingdom. God is good!