Dear Friends in Christ,
Recently, I announced at Mass that we are again a one-priest parish. This is not new. For the better part of my tenure here at St. John Vianney, it has been this way. We are fortunate and blessed to have had priests helping over the years. Even when we have had priests assigned as a parochial vicar, we have still had to rely on outside priests to help us. The big difference now compared to only a few years ago is that there are far fewer priests available to help! I was recently informed that Msgr. James Anderson, who has been assisting us for the last 10 years with our Spanish Masses, will no longer be available to offer Mass at SJV. He is being assigned as pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in La Marque. The priest shortage is very real and becoming more acute.
The most important thing for us to do is pray for vocations and encourage vocations in our own families. The Lord Jesus instructs us, “The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. Beg the harvest master to send laborers into the field!” The key to more vocations is more prayer. If we pray and live our Catholic faith joyfully and without compromise, this will be the fertile ground that will produce an abundance of vocations. In most aspects, the absence of an additional full time assigned priest is not that dramatic for us. We have a fantastic staff, great deacons and YOU! While you cannot offer Mass or hear confessions, YOU are the key to ministry and discipleship here at St. John Vianney. The more parishioners we have actively engaged in the ministry and evangelization, the better for us all. Ministry is not merely “helping out Father.” Ministry is each of us actively living our baptismal vocation. With more than 15,000 parishioners, there is much to do, and everyone can do something. Among the parish ministry areas where parishioners are needed to serve are liturgical ministries, catechetical formation, social services and communal life. There is always a need of teachers and helpers for our Youth Formation and Youth Ministry. Yet, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have just as many groups of Adult Formation as we have for Youth Formation? Imagine 150 prayer, study and faith sharing groups of adults meeting in homes and here at the parish! Why not? Imagine instead of home building missions a few times a year that we had so many people that we were building and repairing homes every week! Why not? Imagine that we had so many people wanting to become Catholic that instead of meeting on Thursdays, we had different groups meeting on different days of the week throughout the year! Why not? Imagine so many people coming to Morning and Evening Prayer (Lauds and Vespers) that we had to move from the Adoration Chapel! Why not? Imagine if everyone at SJV could say that their best friends were also members of SJV. Why not? Imagine that we have so many parishioners desiring to serve in the liturgy, wanting to bring communion to the sick at home, assisting couples getting married or families at baptism that we would have scheduling problems trying to fit them all in! Why not? Imagine that we had so many young people from the parish go into the seminary and the convent that the bishop would come to us and ask if we could show other parishes how to promote vocations? Impossible? No way! This is absolutely possible. All we must do is pray, asking for God’s blessings and grace and then get to work.
With the reduction of priests here at the parish, there will be some changes. I would love to be able to offer multiple Masses and confession times each day during the week, but it is simply not possible. Understanding and patience are required. Our schedule remains extremely generous. In the meantime, here are a few practical suggestions. Please do not wait until the last minute to call for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Waiting until the very last minute can be too late. It breaks my heart when people call for a family member who is near death and they pass away before I can get there. Please be patient when it comes to making appointments. The calendar was already full even when we had a parochial vicar (assistant pastor). Please be mindful that not everything requires the pastor or a priest. We have a great staff and dedicated deacons. Deacon Jeff, Deacon Greg, Yvonne, Carolina, Mike, Vivian, Belinda, Richard and our other staff members may be the best person to help you. Please be patient in confession. No one has to come to confession every three days! But please don’t stay away from confession either. When you come in Lent and Advent, do not wait until the last minute. Likewise, please do not confuse the Sacrament of Penance with counseling.
If you need or desire counseling, please make an appointment. The confessional is not the best place for lengthy discussions. Please forgive me ahead of time for whatever I may do in failing to serve you as you think or desire I should. There is only one of me. I do love you, but I too get tired, forget stuff, make mistakes and can have a bad day now and then. When that happens and I promise that it will, please do not get mad at God, blame the Catholic Church or curse all priests. Please forgive me, say a prayer that I will do better and pray that your family may be blessed with vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Lastly, while I greatly appreciate your concern, please do not worry or fear. The priesthood is a wonderful life and is filled with more blessings than I can describe. God has always taken care of us, and He always will! Blessed be God!
In pace Christi,