Welcoming A New Pastor

06-26-2022From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

As most of you know, I went on my annual priest retreat the week of June 13 – 18. I had a wonderful time at my alma mater – Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg. Maryland. While there I had lots of time to pray, and remembered all of you and the special intentions so many of you gave me. As usual, I visited and prayed at the tomb of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, to whom I have a special devotion.

On June 6th, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for the 8th grade class that was graduating from our parish school. Fr. Gilbert and Fr. Dawid Wjernerowski (of St. Mary’s in Alpha) concelebrated the Mass with me. It was wonderful to see these fine young men and women reach this milestone. Having taught their religion class each week, I came to know them as great group. I wish them every success in the coming years

I’d like to dedicate the rest of this article to some advice I would offer you about welcoming and adjusting to your new pastor when he arrives on August 1. Some of these suggestions are my own, others come from sources I have read on this topic. I offer them to you in the hope that they will be helpful to you.

Expect some change. Although priests are advised not to change anything when they first arrive in a new parish, my personal experience has taught me that is nearly impossible. Just the fact that one priest is gone and another is here is a change in and of itself. Add to that the fact that every priest has a different personality and may choose different legitimate options when celebrating Mass and you can see what I mean. Thus, it is realistic to expect at least some change when a new priest comes to a parish.

Remember God’s role in the process. If God wanted every priest to be the same, He would not call so many different men to the priesthood. The fact that God calls such a diverse group of men to be priests tells me that God sees value in this diversity. Anyone who has been in this parish for any length of time can think of many different priests with different gifts, strengths, and – to be honest – weaknesses. Focusing on the gifts and strengths of your new priest is a good way to see what blessings God may grant the parish through him

Introduce yourself to him – lots of times. Remember that your new pastor will be meeting lots of people over his first weeks and months in our parish. Tell him your name the first several times (at least!!) that you meet him. Don’t give him too much other information while he’s outside after Mass and there is a long line of other people waiting to introduce themselves to him, too. Best to tell him your name, and maybe add if you are an usher, EM, lector, choir member, Knight of Columbus, Catholic Daughter, Columbiette, or life long parishioner the first time or so. But please, whatever you do, don’t take it personally if he doesn’t remember your name the first time. Believe me when I say that he would love to remember everyone’s name, but that will take a lot of time in a big parish like this. Truth be told, there are still many faces I know – whose names I don’t – after 13 years.

Pray for him – a lot. I have asked all of you to pray a Hail Mary for me every day since I arrived in this parish, and am so grateful that so many of you do so. God pours out so many blessings to us in response to our prayers for each other. Start praying for you new pastor, if you have not already done so. Ask God to give him, you, and all the people of the parish every grace they need to make a smooth transition.

Remember that this is a big change for him, too! Psychologists say that the three most disorienting changes in life are (1) changes where you live, (2) changing the people you live with, and (3) changing your job. When a priest moves to a new parish – he experiences all three of these life altering changes. He moves to a new town and rectory, begins living with a different group of priests, and – while his overall vocation as a priest remains the same – he gets the new job of being pastor of his new parish (with its own unique challenges, etc.). Keeping that in mind can help you remember that, while getting a new pastor is a big change for you – it is an even bigger change for him

Remembering the way you welcomed me to this parish 13 years ago, and the way you have supported me with your cooperation, good heartedness, and prayers over the years, make me confident that you will do your part to ensure a smooth transition for Fr. Antony and St. Philip and St. James Church.

As you do, please keep me in your prayers – at least a Hail Mary a day – and be assured of my prayers for you.

Have a great week!

Fr. John