Who Will Be Pastor?

Live Christmas Trees
Even though live, cut Christmas trees look and smell great for weeks, by this time we can see the cold hard fact: from the time they were cut, they began a slow process of decay and death. Our faith can be remarkably similar to a live, cut Christmas tree. Faith could be dying even while it appears as usual.

As parishioners know, I am a big proponent of lifelong faith formation. That is what helped me grow spiritually as much when I was teaching as when I was in seminary. Participation in some kind of lifelong faith formation can help us insure we are getting closer to Jesus rather than further away, especially when that faith formation happens in groups with people who know Jesus. Please see the Christmas bulletin pp. 4-6.

Note especially that “The Search” is geared toward the unchurched and “nones” young or old (fallen away Catholics/Christians) who profess no religion, and atheists or agnostics. Men keep your eyes on the bulletin for more information about the next session of That Man Is You (TMIY). I will also be offering a six week book study of Thomas Merton’s “New Seed of Contemplation,” a popular spirituality book of his. Finally, see the bulletin for more information about Incarnation’s new program to help support those experiencing pregnancy or infant loss.

COVID Protocols

I want to thank parishioners for their outstanding cooperation regarding masking these past weeks. New COVID cases are still running in the mid 700’s in Montgomery County, nearly four times the cases reported a month ago. Kettering main branch has opened another wing/floor for COVID patients, making their COVID count the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

The reason we are masking is very simple. Since we are having hundreds of people gathering for an hour, we are taking simple measures to diminish the spread of COVID, especially due to the ease of spread for the recent variant. As we welcome seniors who are particularly devout and who regard their commitment to Jesus and the Church perhaps more than their own well-being—a powerful witness to younger generations—we can take simple measures to protect them and to diminish the spread of COVID so that health care workers and institutions are not overwhelmed.

When reported new COVID cases in Montgomery County come down, we will unmask.

Who will be pastor of our sister parishes?

Over the next weeks, it is likely that pastors of families of parishes in the Archdiocese will be named. Let me offer a few thoughts and experiences over these past weeks.

When the families of parishes were announced at the priest gathering in October, Fr. Brian and I were together at one of the Dayton South deanery tables. I remember noting that Fr. Brian seemed a bit more pensive and quiet at that meeting. Of course, as we sometimes do when getting a sense for how others are, maybe I was reading my own preoccupations of mind and heart into his.

It is pretty clear that one of us will be named the pastor of the St. Francis and Incarnation, sister parishes.

In one sense, my heart went out to Fr. Brian. If the personnel board ranks seniority of priests highly, since I have logged seventeen more years of ordination, I might end up being pastor.

At the same time, I think that same day, I texted Brian that he would be a wise choice to lead our sister parishes. Let me explain.

Having been associate pastor here at Incarnation for four years, Fr. Brian knows about Incarnation Church’s strengths and weaknesses. He was a beloved associate serving with a beloved pastor. He cut his teeth as a priest here and grew much during his time here.

Even more, currently being in his fourth year as pastor of St. Francis, he knows and loves the people of St. Francis and they love and trust him. This is no insignificant reality. For, whenever two or more parishes begin working together, smaller parishes usually fear that they will be overwhelmed by the larger parish or that the larger parish will receive greater preference. Fr. Brian would have a “leg up” in pastoring both parishes, since both parishes know, love and trust him.

Truly, we both would feel blessed to pastor our sister parishes. Originally, the archdiocese planned to announce pastors/associates in February. Last I heard, they were going to try to move the announcement date to sometime in January. Therefore, be praying for the good people of St. Francis and Incarnation Churches…and for Fr. Brian and me!

Until then, be wondering about what uniting parishes entails, things like hard work, dimensions of Jesus’ cross and outstanding blessings. From my experience of working toward uniting four parishes up north, while Jesus’ cross and lots of hard work are present in such an endeavor, by far, the long term blessings are astounding. Also, the openness of most people to unifying is inspiring.

I see that openness around us. As an example, I point to the Incarnation Leisure Club example I mentioned weeks ago. Our Leisure Club leadership inquired about when we could start working together with the similar group at St. Francis. They asked “Do we have to wait until July 1?” when our parishes are officially united under one pastor or can we begin now? That kind of attitude will make for an outstanding sister parish experience, helping us to Incarnate Jesus awesomely in our communities!

Sincerely and with Love in Christ,

Fr. Pat