Dearly Beloved in Christ
May grace and peace be yours in abundance through our Lord Jesus Christ as we begin this Paschal Triduum. In this liturgy, we celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist and, therefore, the Institution of the ministerial priesthood. Through the successors of the apostles, the bishops, we priests have the privilege of standing in the person of Christ, by articulating the same words that he himself used at the Last Supper in order to confect the bread and wine into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. As your pastor, it is both a duty and an honor to celebrate this sacrament with you.
This past Sunday evening, I was visiting with my Dad and he jokingly congratulated me on not being moved this summer. He had seen last week’s edition of The Witness, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which had listed all 32 changes in priestly assignments that will take effect next July. Neither Msgr. Hemann, Fr. Lippstock nor I were listed on it so I’m pretty sure we’re safe. And I really do want to let you know that both Fr. Lippstock and I feel blessed to be here as your priests. I know I don’t say that enough and you may get the impression with the changes that I am making that I’m not happy here. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Msgr. Hemann told me before I came here, this is a great assignment filled with great people.
Ever since those assignments came out, I’ve heard several people express a general concern for the priests. People worry that we’re stretching our priests pretty thin and expecting them to have larger and more complex assignments. I’m reminded of an experience I had at Conception Abbey a few years ago. In my first meeting with my spiritual director, Fr. Adam, he asked me why I was there. I told him that I was frustrated at long hours of work with demanding parishioners and annoying staff. He looked me in the eye and said a word you can’t say in church that basically means that he didn’t believe me. He told me that, as a priest, I had two choices. I could either die with Christ in order to live with him or I could quit. The priesthood isn’t meant to be easy. Generally anything worthwhile isn’t.
As part of the ministerial priesthood, I was given the charge in the gospel today, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." I am to model the service of Jesus in this church and challenge you to model it for others in your jobs, schools, homes, and elsewhere. This is how we all share in the priesthood of all believers.