“The mission of the pastors is to help the flock entrusted to them, that it be always out-going, on the move to proclaim the joy of the Gospel.”
– Pope Francis
Among the many things that the month of May is known for, at least for the Church in the US, it is known as a season when new priests are ordained, and new priest assignments are announced. While my profession has me regularly discussing the assignment process, I’ve been blessed to experience a change in pastor about as frequently as I have changed parishes, which is not very frequent. I’ve also been blessed with great pastors, including and especially, our most recent pastor, Fr. Redcay. This week, our community learned that he will be leaving St. Patrick’s to oversee spiritual direction at our seminary. Priestly life and spiritual formation are passions that he has been pursuing for some time, and this will be a tremendous gift to our future priests.
Despite my professional perspective and my intuition that told me this new assignment for Fr. Redcay was a very strong possibility, the news still made my heart hurt a little, and I worried about how my kids would react. After all, Fr. Redcay has been a tremendous shepherd to our family during some very difficult times. My wife broke the news at dinner. Her “explanation to tears ratio” tends to be better than mine. In response to the news, one daughter left the table, another had some red eyes, and the younger two children began their normal reaction with random questions, “So, he won’t be here during the week, but he will still be here on Sundays?” We shook our heads no. “Will the new guy keep the donuts on second Sundays?” This was a shared concern which we could not definitively alleviate. “But Fr. Redcay belongs to St. Pat’s,” said our 6-year-old daughter, Norah. I explained that Father actually belongs to the Church of Philadelphia. “Is that a Catholic Church? Is it far from us?” she asked innocently. “Can we visit him there?” At some point in my eloquent explanation that we all belonged to the Church of Philadelphia, I realized Norah was playing an imaginary game with her chicken nuggets and had stopped listening to me a long time ago.
As I watched parishioners hug Fr. Redcay after a school Mass this past week, I couldn’t help but reflect on Norah’s belief that he “belonged” to our parish. As a disciple, does my sense of belonging revolve around what I believe belongs to me, or rather, the recognition of that to which I am blessed to belong? Whether it’s a Bible study group, the school sports team, the church building, or our pastor, do I see the gifts the Church has shared as objects to own or as gifts to steward and share? How intentional am I in holding the tension of the needs of the universal Church within the 5-mile radius that defines my daily routine?
Fr. Redcay may no longer belong to St. Patrick Parish, but at least for the Cellucci family, we will never forget how he helped us come to know the most important Father to whom we all belong. As we continue this season where many parishioners and priests are experiencing changes and transitions, let us pray that their hearts and our witness point to the One who promises to be with us always.
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