Team Day speaker examines Jesus’ leadership qualities

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | March 26, 2014

GREEN BAY — Years ago, a catechumen in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program in the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., surprised Fr. Ray Carey with a question. She asked, “You’ve known Jesus all your life; what do you want to know about Jesus?”

Fr. Ray Carey, a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., visits with Bishop Robert Morneau at Team Day, held March 20 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay. Fr. Carey served as keynote speaker at Team Day, the annual seminar offered as a day of study and reflection for parish staff and volunteers. (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)
Fr. Ray Carey, a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., visits with Bishop Robert Morneau at Team Day, held March 20 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay. Fr. Carey served as keynote speaker at Team Day, the annual seminar offered as a day of study and reflection for parish staff and volunteers. (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)

“It’s the greatest gift I’ve received in my 44 years of priesthood, that question,” said Fr. Carey, who serves at Queen of Peace Parish in Salem, Ore. “I want to know what was in the heart of Jesus. That continues to guide me.”

Fr. Carey examined the heart, foundational values and leadership qualities of Jesus at Team Day, 2014, Thursday, March 20, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. The annual seminar is offered as a day of study and reflection for parish staff and volunteers.

To understand Jesus’ leadership style, it’s important to look at his values, said Fr. Carey in his opening talk. He explained how Jesus gave dignity to those on the margins — the beggars, lepers, prostitutes and others with no hope.

“Jesus came among them to proclaim the reign of God that belonged to them,” he said.

Although Jesus was given the title, he was not a rabbi, clarified Fr. Carey.

“They taught the Torah, he taught relationships,” he said. “He was teaching them that they have a relationship with his Abba (Father).”

Fr. Carey also offered some warnings to those involved in ministry. He emphasized that there is “no center for power in the kingdom (Jesus) proclaimed. The kingdom is all around you.” Speaking directly to the priests in attendance, he encouraged them to recognize the dangers of becoming too busy in ministry.

“You can become so busy that the only prayer is scheduled,” he said.

He explained that sometimes the prayer life of  a priest may be consumed with Mass, scheduled talks, hospital visits and other appointments that limit personal prayer time.

“You get into a rhythm that pulls you further and further away from the one whose ministry you share,” he said.

Team Day 2014 marked a return visit to the diocese for Fr. Carey, who also teaches deacons preparing for the priesthood at Mt. Angel Seminary Graduate School of Theology in St. Benedict, Ore. He served as the presenter at Team Days 2007. A Packer fan for more than 50 years, Fr. Carey recalls pooling laundry money with some classmates at seminary to subscribe to the Green Bay Press-Gazette so they could follow the team.

Fr. Carey used reflections from his priesthood to emphasize the need to connect to Jesus’ leadership qualities. One example supported the point that Jesus “was into seeds not the harvest.”

“In my early days as a priest, I remember being frustrated when a program didn’t go as well as I had hoped,” he said. “The harvest comes later. You do your work the best you can and those who come after you will bring that work to fruition. Worry about the seeds, God will take care of the harvest.”

Fr. Carey praised how Jesus stood up for women, his constant message of forgiveness and how he made God’s teachings simple.

“Bishop (Ken) Untener in Saginaw (Mich.) would ask every group before a meeting, ‘How is what we are about to do going to affect the poor?’ At the end of the meeting, he would ask ‘How is what we did tonight going to affect the poor?’ What a simple way to teach a pathway to truth,” said Fr. Carey. “Jesus taught like that.”

Other leadership qualities of Jesus offered by Fr. Carey included:

n Jesus had confidence in his choices.

n He always knew that he was not alone.

n Jesus beheld people, he didn’t just look at them.

n He was a “come and see” learner and a patient teacher.

Another way to look into the heart of Jesus is to consider what caused him anxiety, said Fr. Carey.

“Wealth and power,” he explained, “he pleaded in all four Gospels to be cognizant of those two things.”

A Haitian priest provided Fr. Carey with a thought provoking outlook on wealth. The priest, on scholarship, attended Seton Hall University where Fr. Carey taught during a summer term. The two took a walk one day in a neighborhood of luxury homes in Newark, N.J. Fr. Carey asked the priest about his thoughts when seeing  such wealth when his homeland is poverty stricken.

“He replied, ‘I feel so sorry for all of these people. They have so much to distract them,’” said Fr. Carey. “Pope Francis delivers this message. He often talks about compassion and mercy. The Holy Father addresses the corrupting parts of wealth and power.”

Of all the qualities of Jesus, which should guide the faithful the most?

“I would become a Christian just for his reverence of persons,” said Fr. Carey. “That’s enough for me.”

Fr. Carey suggested the book “Jesus: An Historical Approximation,” by Jose A. Pagola, as a good source about the life of Jesus. In the afternoon session of Team Day, he spoke about ethics and  provided concrete tools to use in ministry. He closed the day with a reflection on Pope John XXIII, who along with Pope John Paul II will be declared a saint on April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday.

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