Associated Priests

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

For the past four weeks, our second reading has come from the Letter to the Hebrews. This New Testament book shows Jesus Christ as our great, faithful, and merciful high priest: holy, innocent, and undefiled, yet patient and compassionate. He is able to personally sympathize with us in our weaknesses because, though sinless, he shares in our humanity and struggle. Jesus Christ is a priest forever offering his one perfect sacrifice to God the Father in a priesthood which does not pass away.

As the Catechism teaches, the redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; but this sacrifice is made present for us at Mass. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; Jesus’ priesthood is unique, but it is made present for us through the ministerial priesthood which he founded at the Last Supper. Jesus commands his apostles, “Do this in memory of me,” ordaining them priests of his New Covenant. Yet only Christ is the true priest, while they are merely his ministers.

Besides the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ and the ministerial priesthood of his ordained bishops and priests, there is the common priesthood (that is to say, an equally-shared priesthood) of all the faithful, which is ours through baptism. Sharing in Christ’s identity as priest, prophet, and king, each of us have holy sacrifices to offer, each of us have holy truth to proclaim, and each of us have holy power to wield. The Second Vatican Council noted, pastors “know that they themselves were not meant by Christ to shoulder alone the entire saving mission of the Church toward the world.” The ministerial priesthood is at the service of your priesthood, so that you — sanctified, strengthened, enlightened, and formed — can be as Jesus Christ and his saints for this place and time.

The scribe in today’s gospel approaches Jesus and asks: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus answers that the first in importance is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And the second is this: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” We must be entirely devoted to God, lovingly serving his kingdom according to our personal gifts and callings. And yet, even when we’re giving our all, we remain limited creatures. For instance, time spent doing one thing cannot be spent doing something else. And we are not pure, angelic spirits but physically embodied creatures, beset by weakness and fatigue.

I have experienced this these past four years as your pastor, having two parishes and a school, celebrating thirteen or fourteen Masses a week, with usually five Masses to offer on the weekends. Plus there’s confessions, funerals, anointings, and weddings; school activities and CCD; answering correspondence and completing paperwork; writing for the bulletins and the Sunday homily; and meetings or appointments on most weeknights. I mention this not to brag or complain, but to show why this is grinding and draining and why I do not do more — there is only one of me. I would like to do more than these things I do, but I feel I can’t – not without some help or relief. That’s why I have been working with our parish councils for several months seeking a good solution.

Today, I can announce good news: St. Paul’s and St. John the Baptist’s parishes will soon have an additional priest. This associate priest will assist me, your pastor, in serving you. His name is Fr. Chinnappan, a priest from India, who presently happens to be Fr. John Potaczek’s associate in Mauston. Fr. Potaczek will have a new associate, but Fr. Chinnappan will officially begin ministry here with us, with lodging at St. John’s rectory, on December 1st of this year.

This means that our current weekend Mass schedule will not need to change next year. We’ll have more flexibility in scheduling funerals and more opportunities for confession. Weekday Masses will become Communion Services much less often than before. And visiting priests will no longer be needed for helpouts. Fr. Chinnappan is excited to teach a religion class at St. Paul’s School next semester, and now there will typically be at least one priest around at both parishes for each night of CCD.

I look forward to the unique gifts and perspective Fr. Chinnappan will bring to St. Paul’s and St. John the Baptist’s. I trust that you will make him welcome, and be patient with us who serve you. For myself, I am most excited to have more opportunities to engage, teach, and evangelize, drawing souls more closely and profoundly to Christ here at our church and school. I have some new ideas in mind, and I want to hear your ideas and any offers to help. Jesus wills for you and I to be one hundred percent devoted, with all our heart and mind, soul and strength. Let us serve Jesus Christ, our priest and king, as saints for this parish according to our own unique gifts and callings.

One Response to “Associated Priests”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    May God bless your shared ministry!

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