It was 17 years ago today that I came to Concord to serve as a pastor. Since anniversaries tend to be noted in multiples of 5 years it may seem odd to draw any attention to this 17th milestone but on March 1, 1994, I never expected that I'd still be in Concord in 2011. I was appointed back then for a six year term, renewable for another six year term. But then came reconfiguration and the closing of parishes and the merging of faith communities and the dwindling number of priests in the archdiocese. All that has contributed to a situation where very often pastors are left in place years past the time they might have expected to be reassigned.
My assignment history has not been altogether ordinary. Ordained in 1973, I was assigned to St. Ann Parish in the Wollaston section of Quincy, MA for a five year term. In 1978 I requested and was granted permission to enter an M.A. program in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame. After completing my degree work, I was allowed to stay on at Notre Dame another three years, working as a director of formation of diocesan students at Moreau Seminary on campus and in the Office of Campus Ministry at Notre Dame.
Returning to the archdiocese in 1982 I served as a campus minister at (now closed) St. Ann University Parish and at Northeastern University and Emerson College for 9 years. After that I was assigned in 1991 as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Medway, MA before coming to be pastor at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Concord in 1994. After the reconfiguration of Our Lady and St. Bernard Parishes in Concord in 1994, I was named pastor of Holy Family Parish in 2004.
I'm grateful that I can honestly say that each of these assignments has been a blessing in my life and ministry. Each placement has had its joys and sorrows but the grace of living with God's people through the good times and the bad, through sickness and health, through life and death - all of this has been a source of grace for me and I pray that my ministry has been the same for the people I've served.
In this seventeenth years I'll be working with the archdiocese and my parish to welcome back those who have drifted away from the life and prayer of the Catholic communion. This effort is called Catholics Come Home and I pray that this intentional opening of our doors will be well received.
I think of the Catholics who have left the Church in Concord over the past 17 years and I pray that in not too many instances have I been the reason or even part of the reason for their departure. Mistakes I've made have not been intentional but in such an important matter, mistakes can have lasting consequences. Pray with me that God's Spirit will be guiding both those who have left and us who hope for their return. As the song says, "'Tis grace has brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home..."
For today, I praise and thank God for these 17 years with the Catholic people of Concord!
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