Thanks for following the SJSRector Blog for the past six and a half years. It has been an extraordinary privilege to be pastor of this Holy House in which God performs miracles in men’s hearts every day.
This morning Bishop McManus announced that I will be returning to Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Worcester, and I look forward to this assignment with the same eager joy as I have for each new assignment I have received in my nearly forty years as a Priest.
Needless to say, I am sad to leave Saint John’s Seminary, but I will always carry the good men and women there in my heart and in my prayers.
As you will recall, I went on sabbatical in August in order to assure a fully transparent Review of the Seminary in the light of allegations by two former seminarians. I look forward to the results of that review and am sure the Seminary will be an even better place as a result of the recommendations of that Review. I also want to make it clear that no one accused me of anything, and I leave Saint John’s Seminary proud of our many accomplishments.
This time on sabbatical, however, has given me the opportunity to reflect on many things, and I have come to the conclusion that many of the current administrative challenges and complex institutional relationships faced by Saint John’s Seminary demand a fresh approach and a renewed energy. I will pray for my successor and I ask you to give him your unwavering support and every encouragement.
For you, and especially for each of you seminarians whom I have been privileged to call “My Lord,” I pray simply that the Lord might bring to completion what he has begun so well in your life.
Ironically, my last homily at the Seminary was on “Endings and Beginnings,” and my last Rector’s Conference was “On Leaving” and “On Professional Standards.” Allow me to quote from what I said in that last Rector’s Conference, as I believe God may have been putting those words in my mouth then as a foreshadowing of my leave-taking now.
Few things in life are as tough as change and few changes are as tough as taking your leave. As a Priest, you will experience innumerable leave-takings, from deaths to transfers. And each leave-taking is a rehearsal for the next and a preparation for that final leave-taking which is your death, that complete letting go, when you will be called to let yourself fall into the arms of God in a final great kenotic imitation of Christ upon his cross….
Sometimes those deaths, big or small, happen in a seminary, which is, by definition a place of formation and discernment. Sometimes those leave takings are the result of long days of wrestling in a seminarian’s heart. Sometimes they come from Bishops or rectors or faculty councils. But always they are painful, both for the man packing his bag and for the ones he leaves behind. For you see, leave-taking is never a solitary act. It deeply affects an entire community of people…
In fact, no one leaves as often as the diocesan priest. In the beginning you get transferred a lot because you need a lot of experience. And while I never really believed it when I was sitting where you are, there is nothing like experience. And then you get moved for all kinds of other reasons, some of which will make sense to you and some of which will not. But in obedience you go and do whatever he tells you, ever cognizant of what you said when you knelt before the bishop and placed your life in his hands.
I left my first parish after burying my first pastor, who dropped dead at the end of a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Then I went as an associate to Father Bill O'Brien at Saint Leo's in Leominster, then off to Catholic University for a year. I came back as an associate to two parishes in Spencer and was then named pastor there. After the two parishes were joined, I went to the Bishops' Conference for thirteen years to run the Liturgy shop. I left there to become Rector at Saint Paul's Cathedral in Worcester, and now, here I am as your Rector.
That's a lot of moving (an average of once every five years) and a lot of people to say good-bye to. But as the contact list on my iPhone will tell you, I keep in touch with some. But the leaving is never easy.
It's never easy because you have become their father and you have witnessed them at their very best and their very worst. You are there when they are perfect reflections of Christ's love and when they have been hateful and vengeful and spiteful. Like any good shepherd you know and love your sheep. You may not always like them all, but you love them so much that you are willing to lay down your life for them.
And so leaving a parish can be very, very hard. For when you leave, the tears and the smiles will make something very clear. That some have loved you and through your personality, your actions and your good self, Christ was able to touch their lives. And that some have not been fully appreciative of your presence and are more grateful at your going away than your arriving…
And it is good to change assignments. Change reassures us that we are not God, but only an unworthy servant doing whatever he gives us to do, for whatever time he chooses, through the wisdom of the Bishop. Change is good for you and for me, for each time I have been transferred I leave behind my successes, but I also leave behind my failures which, by the grace of God and the fading of the memory, will slowly disappear…
Leaving and arriving and leaving again. Saying yes to it, opening your arms to it, accepting whatever he sends your way. That’s doing the will of God, and what more could we ever ask for?
Oh, and by the way, as God has taught me every time, leaving is usually just a prelude to a happy ending. Even when it’s sad.
The Press Release announcing my new assignment will be the last post to this blog. At the same time, my new blog (msgrmoroney.blogspot.com) and twitter feed (@msgrmoroney) are already live, and you are welcome to join me there if you wish to share in all that God continues to have in store for me in this next chapter of my Priesthood.
In the Lord,
Monsignor James P. Moroney