On July 1 I’m going to be spending my first night in a new town, a new parish and a different rectory. I will have moved way too much stuff from Ottumwa, more than any normal person should even own. Most of it I won’t be using, but then again who knows — I might. So I kept it.
I am only one of many priests in the Diocese of Davenport who are thinking the same thing. July 1 is the day we all arrive in our new assignments.
One thing that I know for sure is that some people in our parishes rejoiced when they heard we were moving. Some people were sad when they heard we were moving. Then there is the group who says, “Well he has been here for a while. We will wait to see what the new guy is like. Priests come and go, what can you do?”
A few years from now, or maybe even by the end of this year, some people won’t remember our names, if they ever knew them.
Surprisingly, I am OK with that. After all, the ministry of priesthood is not about me. It is about Christ. It is about proclaiming Christ crucified, raised and ascended. It is about faith. It is much more important to me that a few years from now or even by the end of the year people remembered that I proclaimed Christ. In the Gospels the names of the 12 apostles aren’t the same from list to list. If we can’t get their names right, why would a priest think that his name is important enough to remember?
With all of that being said, I have a few reflections on leaving. It is never easy to leave a place you have called home for 10 years. I have enjoyed my time as the pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation. The parish has helped me to grow in countless ways. I know that my faith is stronger now than when I arrived. I know that my understanding of Church is different.
Earlier in the year I experienced some health issues. I had never been sick before. I never needed so much help before. It was a transforming experience, having hundreds of people offering to help. It was humbling to have others praying for me. That is what I am supposed to do for them, not them for me. I always believed in the power of prayer to bring comfort and peace. Now, I have experienced it. Thank you for that gift.
I will be arriving at St. James, Washington, in just a few days. I know that people there have “Googled” my name and checked me out by talking to everyone who ever knew me. They have heard countless stories about me. I have done the same with them. I talked to priests who have been at St. James. I talked to people who have family in the parish and I have checked them out on Facebook. So here is the deal: I will only believe the good things people tell me about my new parishioners. I hope they only believe the good things people tell them about me, and I will try to live up to those attributes.
Moving to a new parish is a true blessing. To be able to live in a new Catholic community and to have them share their love of Christ with me is a gift from our God. I hope that they will see my love of Christ in my actions and words.
I am excited about my move. I am looking forward to being the pastor of St. James. I will miss St. Mary of the Visitation in Ottumwa. I know they will make their new pastor, Father Jim Betzen, C.PP.S., feel just as welcome as they have me.
As I move on, if my name is not remembered, I’m OK with that. In St. James I will find a new faith community, and my new home. I can’t wait to arrive and see what adventures God has in store for us.
(Fr. Weir is pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.)