Monday, January 14, 2013

On Third Thought

Out walking on this unseasonably warm afternoon and gradually gnawed by remorse over my “glib” post this morning and even my attempt to “make good” this afternoon, I came around to the question that most of us at St. Mary Star of the Sea probably are asking today:

But what happens now?

Assuming, as I do, that Father Barnes, our pastor, will be reassigned in the archdiocesan reorganization now underway, what will happen to all the good that has been accomplished in his years as pastor?

Within just three years of his appointment, the parish had solved a debt crisis in a manner that would do the US Congress proud, as reported by the Salem News in 2007. But, while typical of his cool under fire, Father’s early crisis management was not what I think we will miss now.

These are some of the questions that concern me most, perhaps you too:

Will our next pastor be the preacher Father Barnes is? I can’t help myself, but with my Protestant background, I still judge a priest by his sermons—er, homilies. Our pastor is never less than a teacher when he climbs to the ambo; and although I am no theologian, it seems that his grasp of Church doctrine is firm and his explanations impeccable. Though only five years a Catholic, I do hear stories of other preachers in other parishes . . .

Will our new pastor be as, well, pastoral? Stories abound of Father Barnes answering the call in the middle of the night. A friend told me today of his “dropping everything” to come to a bedside in a moment of need. 

Will our new pastor continue the practice of Eucharistic Adoration, which has become a mainstay of our devotional life as a community?

And the related question—

Will our next pastor inspire vocations to the priesthood as Father Barnes has done? In each of the past three years, a young man from our parish has entered St. John’s Seminary. While frequent Adoration is said to correlate highly with priestly vocations, and Father Barnes began Adoration in our parish four years ago, it is hard for me not to think that the most important factor in St. Mary’s becoming a “garden for vocation formation” is Father Barnes’s power of example. Here is a complete and balanced man in his early forties who clearly loves being a priest and embodies his role with dignity, wisdom, toughness, and humor.

Will we no longer have young seminarians and priests visiting us and participating in our parish life, as they have while Father Barnes has been our pastor? Will we see anything of Father Kwang again? Father Hennessey? Seminarians Tom Gignac, Brian Cullen, Craig Cooley, and others? As I reflected in a recent post, our New Year’s Day Mass on the Solemnity of the Blessed Mother of God, with six young men on the altar, was an extraordinary testament to the vitality of the Catholic priesthood.

I know little about the parish school or the parish council, which makes policy under Father Barnes’s leadership. I am sure these will be impacted as well. What are your concerns about these and other things?

For now, I will leave you with one more question of my own: 

Will our next pastor have a dog like Finnbar? We’ll all miss him too, especially now that he is no longer tearing up the garden beds in the rectory yard.


  1. OK, so here's the thing....Three posts in a row on this topic are a bit over the top.

    There is a very good reason that pastors move around. In no small part to stop them from building up a creepy cult of personality. You clearly seem to like your pastor - and that's great! However he is not the focus or the purpose of the parish - Christ is.

    Every priest moves several times in his career. Every parish has lots of different pastors through the years.

    I am guessing since you are a convert you haven't experienced this before - but it is a normal part of being a Catholic.

    Give the new guy coming into the parish a chance. I am willing to bet that he will have gifts and talents that are different than your current pastor - but which will serve the community in important ways.

  2. Yes, of course you're right. I am a convert. This will be my first change of pastors. And I get that the new guy may have gifts. But we're all reeling here. It will take a few days to digest, and maybe a few more posts too.

  3. One answer, as always and everywhere, is to pray for all priests, Fr. Barnes in particular voice, and deeply and caringly for his replacement. Fr. Barnes has brought you Christ, and you to Christ, rather well, by your description. Of your questions, go ahead and address them to your new pastor, when he arrives, and don't forget the important one: "Father, as well as praying for you, how can I help?"

    Yet, pray - and as Saint Peter highly recommends, cast all your anxieties and cares upon the Lord, for He cares for you.

    Warren Jewell

    1. I love your commentaries, Warren. Please keep them coming!


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