Friday, May 17, 2019
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
On Saturday, May 11, I ordained five new priests for the service of this local Church. Their assignments as parochial vicars, assistant priests, to their pastors, will begin effective June 15. I know that God’s people will welcome them with great joy. Besides these men who begin their first assignments, a number of others will take on new assignments at the same time. And, I pray that God’s people will also welcome these priests as they transition to new parishes.
At the same time, I recognize that the transfer of priests can be unsettling to many people. People genuinely love their parish priests – and, sometimes, people truly grieve when a priest is moved to a new assignment. And for most priests, being transferred is a “bittersweet” experience, as they leave behind parishioners they have grown to love even as they look forward to establishing new relationships in their new assignments.
“Why is the Archbishop taking away ‘our’ priest?”, some parishioners may complain. These changes, however, are not arbitrary and I do not make them haphazardly or capriciously. A “priest personnel board” comprised of my auxiliary bishops and seasoned pastors advise me and, after several meetings beginning in early January, together we arrive at a consensus of where our priests can best serve the pastoral needs of our people in this very diverse Archdiocese.
In the past year, two pastors died in office and several long serving pastors have asked to retire. Of course, they do not “retire” from the priesthood; but retirement from active ministry means that they can now be as “occupied” as they wish to be, health permitting, without being “preoccupied” with the burdens of administration.
On the day of our ordinations, when we were called forth, we answered “Adsum” (Present). In this way, we expressed our willingness to put ourselves at the disposal of the Lord who “died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him...” (cf IV Eucharistic Prayer, 2 Corinthians 5: 15). We promised obedience to our bishop to be sent wherever he might discern we can best serve the Church at this time. This obedience, when properly understood and embraced, is liberating – for this promise gives us the freedom to be truly a man for others; this promise allows us to enter into God’s will, into God’s plan, and to witness that what we believe, teach or speak we do so in communion with the entire Catholic and apostolic Church.
All our priests respond “Present” every day, and in so many ways, through their ministry to the People of God. Conforming themselves to the Good Shepherd they find unity, peace and strength in the obedience of service. Here, in the Archdiocese of Miami, we are served by priests from every inhabited continent. They may speak in many different accents but thanks to their dedication and to their extraordinary love for the Lord, they are here for us.
Pray for them that they may continue to grow in the exercise of what St. John Paul II called “pastoral charity.” Founded on the Eucharist, pastoral charity leads a priest to give of his time generously – even when people demand of him his time at inopportune moments; pastoral charity demands a zeal for souls so that no one is considered beyond reach, beyond hope. Pray that your priests will be true pastors of souls, who feed the sheep – and do not seek to feed off the sheep.