Tuesday, June 28, 2011
NEW BEGINNINGS AND THE GRACE OF FAITHFUL CATHOLICS WHO PULL TOGETHER TO GET THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES!
Thursday marks the new beginning for many of our parishes in the Diocese of Savannah.
At St. Joseph Church, Macon, Fr. Justin Ferguson concludes his three years as parochial vicar and continues at St. Teresa Church outside of Augusta. Fr. Dawid Kwiatkowski begins his priestly ministry here at St. Joseph Church.
My former parish in Augusta, Georgia, The Church of the Most Holy Trinity, will be getting its fourth pastor since I departed in 2004! Father Jacek Szuster becomes their yet again new pastor. I was Most Holy Trinity's pastor from 1991 to 2004. When I arrived in 1991, they had been without a pastor for over a year, having three administrators in that time period! Because of that, I was warmly received almost as the Messiah!
It happens that in the life of some parishes, there is upheaval when a pastor leaves and another one arrives. Priests have to adjust to new parishioners and parishioners have to adjust to priests.
When problems arise in parishes due to the skills or lack of skills especially administrative skills that not all priests possess, people can react in a positive way and pull together or they can react in a negative way and create even more problems and further divisions. People, meaning clergy and laity since we are all people, can be fickle in that way. I think it is due to Original and Actual sin. Perfection is not to be found on this side of heaven.
In Protestant Churches, especially congregational ones, when parishioners have difficulties with their pastors, polarization usually occurs with parishioners either supporting the status quo or wanting to change things. The group that looses usually goes and creates another church or they go to another Church. Usually charismatic leaders arise in these situations either to exacerbate the problems by become pseudo structures exerting a false authority or to bring healing and unity under the legitimate authority of the parish, i.e bishop and pastor.
Catholics are suppose to be different. We are suppose to be united under the institution of the bishop and the pastor the bishop sends. We are to respect these offices and the legitimate authority that comes with these offices and respect what Church law requires of us in being Catholics united in a parish and her pastor.
When problems arise we shouldn't set about to create alternative structures of leadership, to obsessively seek out the wrong and make it right or to polarize the parish through proving one side is right and the other is wrong. We shouldn't grasp an authority that is not ours for the taking in other words.
Thank God for the rank and file Catholics who attend Mass each Sunday, support the parish through thick and thin with their offerings of prayer, talent and treasure and seek to pull together to get parishes through difficult times. They are the silent majority, the "sensus fidelium" and God bless them for their faith, loyalty and love and their quiet ability to bring people together under their bishop and their pastor rather than to tear apart and create havoc, pour fuel on anger and light the match to destroy.