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2023 Graduation!

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“It must be tremendously interesting to be a schoolmaster, to watch boys grow up and help them along; to see their characters develop and what they become when they leave school and the world gets hold of them. I don’t see how you could ever get old in a world that’s always young.” Goodbye, Mr. Chips

It is graduation time, the season to celebrate the achievements of those who occupy a world that’s always young. Congratulations to all of our graduates. Blessings for your accomplishments, continually strive for excellence, set challenging goals for yourself, be a lifelong learner, trust in the power of prayer, be committed to your faith, stay friends with God, and may you experience much success in all of your endeavors. 

I will need to take my own advice. Our archdiocese is experiencing a serious decline in the number of priests. In the priest changes that will take effect next week, priests were removed from full time ministry in many of our high schools. A short term solution is the creation of a part time Chaplaincy program. The goal is to have a priest serve as a sacramental complement to a full time lay director of school ministry. I have been chosen, effective 26 June, as the part time Chaplain for Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor while remaining here as the Administrator at OLP. 

Set challenging goals for yourself. I made a promise of obedience on the day of my ordination. It is a promise that I take extremely seriously. The word “obedience” is derived from a Latin word meaning “to listen.” Obedience therefore is not a mindless Pavlovian response but a thoughtful discernment of an individual’s role in the pursuit of a greater good. Obedience requires attentive listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and an acknowledgment of other internal promptings that could encourage or discourage. They both play important roles.

Trust in the power of prayer. Vocations to the priesthood, permanent diaconate, and the religious life are still being extended as they have been extended throughout the history of the Church. The response is not an easy one. Discouragement and doubt do not burst through with a tornadic force, they seep through an unguarded crevice. Yet once they have intruded they whirl within like a tornado incapacitating one from listening and discerning. Saying yes to the invitation, saying yes to God, will not seal the crevice nor tame the inner tempest but it will, each and every day, build a resolve to keep saying yes louder and with greater clarity.

Stay friends with God. I said yes to God thirty years ago when I entered the Seminary. I kept saying yes through crevice breaches and unexpected squalls. And the beautiful thing is that God kept saying yes to me. I offered a yes, without hesitation, when I was extended the invitation to be the administrator here at Peace. It was the same yes, offered with confidence, when I was asked to return to high school ministry. Breaches and squalls come and go but God is everlasting. 

Be committed to your faith. Far from a crevice or a squall, I see this as an opportunity to showcase who we are as parishioners of OLP. We are called a next generation parish and we now have the latitude to proffer what that means and what form it will take. What are the essential elements of a twenty-first century parish? Who are its members? What is required of its members? What tools do they need to fulfill that requirement? When should liturgies be celebrated? What are the components of liturgy? What is needed for them to be celebrated worthily and well? Who is present at the table? Who is absent? What ignites someone’s presence? What fuels their distance? In what ways are you being challenged to grow in your faith? How is the parish the source of your prayer life? How does it answer your prayers? How does the parish keep you in God’s friendship? How does it help you to say yes? 

Continually strive for excellence. Extending multiple assignments to a priest indicates an affirmation of the effective strength of a parish community and its viability to fulfill its pastoral plan seamlessly. In my eyes, and of the archbishop, OLP has the strength to fulfill its pastoral plan seamlessly. You have been entrusted to build upon a foundation established a century ago. Much is expected from whom much has been given. 

Be a lifelong learner. Scripture reveals that the Blessed Mother keeps all things in her heart. Thank you for keeping OLP in your heart and for believing that Jesus keeps us close to his Most Sacred Heart. 

Blessings abundantly – 

Fr. Joe