This is the time of year when most priests celebrate the anniversary of our priestly ordination. Fr. Davis’ (3rd) anniversary was last Wednesday and Fr. Harkins’ (10th) anniversary was Friday. I offered Mass for each of them on those days. I was ordained on June 4, 2004, so this week, I will celebrate sixteen years of priesthood. It is a good time to reflect upon the blessings and challenges of priestly life which inevitably leads one to consider the flock God has entrusted to us, and the good people He has given us to help us along the way.
In 2006, and only two years ordained, I came to St. James with much enthusiasm and little experience! I still fondly look back on my six years here with wonder and joy. It wasn’t until I moved on that I realized that I had truly found a home here. In great literature, characters often discover the value of home only after a long and circuitous journey which leads them to visit unexpected places. After the journey, if they return at all, they return to their home changed, but also with a renewed appreciation for the true meaning of “home”.
When I left St. James eight years ago, I never thought I would be back – apart from a brief visit now and again. When I came back in January, it was to be for a temporary assignment before moving on to full-time Navy duties. After I was here for a short time, I realized that I had truly come home and I felt the Lord calling me to remain. This week I received notice from Bishop Johnston that I will, in fact, remain here at St. James for the foreseeable future. This news brings me joy – the joy of returning home – tempered by the realization that we continue to work through our grief over the loss of our beloved pastor, Fr. Harkins. As I said when I first arrived in January, I consider it a special privilege to be with you in this time, and that privilege is now to be extended.
It is interesting to note that I am not the same priest who showed up here 14 years ago. Yes, I retain the same name, and my face is familiar, but I am older now – in fact, I am the oldest priest to be assigned to St. James in the last 25 years! I come now with experience, as one who has returned home from a long journey. I hope that the life lessons I have learned along the way will benefit you in the years to come and that the Lord will bring us all, together, to Everlasting Life. As I always have, I will rely upon your prayers.
Three years ago, St. James was asked to share her priests with St. Patrick Parish. On July 1st, the relationship between our two parishes will change as Fr. Davis concludes his tenure as parochial vicar (associate pastor) at St. James and officially assumes the Bishop’s appointment as parochial administrator at St. Patrick Parish. We both hope that our two parishes will continue to maintain strong bonds and offer mutual support to one another as we continue to serve the good people of our city