Open your heart to change

By Linda Zahorik | For The Compass | July 3, 2017

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

Sunday’s Gospel can reflect the call to the priesthood and parish ministry.

July 1 is when some 20 changes in priests and parish leaders will take place. When you come to Mass this weekend, the biggest change you may see in the liturgy is the priest presiding at it.
Pastoral changes are always difficult for a parish. For many years, a particular priest or parish leader has been our spiritual leader. They have laughed with us, cried with us, challenged us and sometimes downright annoyed us — but nonetheless, they hold a place in our heart and we are saddened by the departure.

Then we hear St. Matthew telling us that, by receiving those who are doing the work of Jesus, we welcome Jesus himself.

If you are in a parish undergoing transition, the most important thing you can bring to the liturgy these next few weeks is a welcoming heart. Priests and parish leaders undergo uniform formation, but each comes to us with their own personal spirituality, formed by their relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Well he/she certainly is not like Fr. X was” may slip into our thoughts. Set aside criticism and strive to be filled with welcome, recognizing that each person sent to us in pastoral leadership is their own person. Given time, we will begin to see the special gifts and graces God gave to them to serve our particular community, at this particular time.

You may suddenly notice some changes in the liturgical celebration in your parish. The Roman Missal is very specific on how Mass is to be celebrated. Priests try very hard to be faithful to those rubrics. However, the Missal also contains options, choices the priest can make. Each priest has his own style of praying, speaking, gesturing and relating. Let us be filled with welcome.

Perhaps as the weeks pass, you may notice the presider’s chair moves (from where it has “always” been), or candlesticks appear in a different place, or there’s a cross on the altar, where there was not one before. Maybe your new leader seems too quiet or, alternatively, seems filled with too many ideas.

It is so easy for us to become cross over small issues like this. The most damaging thought to growth in any parish is, “But we have always done it that way.” If you pay close attention, you will see that your new priest or parish leader will be watching, listening and learning about his/her new family. Allow them the chance to journey with you into what will be the “new normal” for your parish.
Let us pray for all our priests, parish leaders and parishioners. If your parish is venturing into the new, or if you are simply continuing to grow in what already is in place, welcome one another as we would welcome Christ.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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