By Fr. Corey Close
Whenever we start in a new place, we can oftentimes concentrate on the negatives, on the ways in which where we are doesn’t measure up to our expectations. As the demands of work and life fall upon us, we can begin to count the cost, to notice every ache, every sacrifice, every annoyance which, if we were somewhere else, we would not have to deal with. We can choose to live in a place of sadness, disappointment, and possibly even resentment. We can let the little crosses and the big crosses of our vocation get in the way of how generous and loving God has been in our lives, precisely by placing us where we are with whatever delights or sorrows, friends or foes, joys or burdens we may find.
As I begin my time as a parish priest here at Prince of Peace in Clinton, I know that these little things have sometimes gotten in the way of what is truly an amazing gift from God, my priesthood and service to Jesus Christ. This is a truth I hope will never leave my heart. Once, while I was on a retreat at seminary, I heard God’s voice say plainly: “Open your eyes and see the goodness I have given you instead of closing them and wishing they see something different.”
Over the years, my thick head and hard heart have been slow to learn this truth, and I often catch myself begrudging the little things that life places in my path. Between moving to Clinton, learning the basics of parish ministry, or even performing the simple daily chores we all must do, sometimes I can lose focus on what matters.
As I reflect on my life in these past few months, I cannot but sit in wonder at the gift that God has given me here in Clinton. While in Washington, D.C., I was at a parish, but I wasn’t a priest of that parish, and consequently everyone I met felt like the member of someone else’s family. While my title was Father, I couldn’t help but feel childless. But now that I am here, assigned by our Bishop Martin Amos to serve the people of the Davenport Diocese in Clinton, I can finally look out on the congregation during Mass, and I feel in my heart: “These are my people.” Now, when I am called Father, it carries a weight it did not before.
I am so happy and grateful that, despite my best efforts to run away from it in the past, God has made me a priest. Even though Iowa is not my original home (having grown up in Chicago), at night when it’s time to go back to the rectory I love to look at the sunset which overlooks a farm surrounded by a soy field. I know that I’m where God wants me to be; I’m home.
I would like to thank all of you for your prayers and support over these past few years, and I look forward to writing for The Catholic Messenger again, sharing with you the moments and the events of my priestly ministry as they come to me. I thank you for taking that walk with me, and for holding me up to God and the Blessed Virgin in prayer that my ministry may be fruitful. Thank you and God bless!
(Fr. Corey Close is parochial vicar at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. He studied for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America during the 2012-13 academic year.)