Parishes this time of year begin to hear of the transfers of their priests from one parish or assignment to another parish or assignments. It is a sad time for many priests and their parishioners, but also an exciting time for priests and parishes, a new beginning.
A priest grows very connected to his people. They become his family. Like any good father, the priest feeds daily his family with the Bread of Life, the Eucharist. The parish rectory is his home and he is picking up roots and moving to another place.
For most priests, this process of transfer, as necessary as it is for the parish, for the diocese, and for the priest himself, is a kind of death. For two, three, five, six, twelve years, the priest has made his roots in the parish.
He has baptized the young (and the not so young in RCIA), buried the dead, comforted the sick with anointing, shrived the sins of the faithful, administered the temporal goods of the parish, and, above all else, offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Even in this time of pandemic, your priests have been there- offering, albeit digitally, the Real and True Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist on the internet, through Holy Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Your pastors and parochial vicars are to be commended for their love and care for the People of God entrusted to them. Many are offering Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament through their parochial territory in a most touching manner.
This is a natural and necessary part of the priest’s ministry. Like the Son of Man who had no place to lay his head, the priest is called to minister to whomever the Bishop needs him to go.
With the hope that by June 30, the day that most of these transfers take effect in the Diocese that some physical distancing requirements might be lifted, Churches might be reopened for public Masses, and parishioners can gather to say thanks to their priests and to say goodbye, it might be a good time now to write an e-mail, a letter, or a card thanking priests for their service to your local community.
Perhaps this week, we might wish to pray this prayer for priests written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
Lord Jesus Christ, eternal High Priest, you offered yourself to the Father on the altar of the cross and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave your priestly people a share in your redeeming sacrifice.
Hear our prayer for the sanctification of our priests.
Grant that all who are ordained to the ministerial priesthood may be ever more conformed to you, the Divine Master.
May they preach the Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience.
Let them be shepherds according to your own heart, single-minded in service to you and to the Church, and shining examples of a holy, simple, and joyful life.
Through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, your Mother and ours, draw all priests and the flocks entrusted to their care to the fullness of eternal life where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.