Seven and one-half years ago Fr. David became the priest for our cluster of 4 parishes. Our former pastor, Fr. Fitz, had died in May, 2003, and since then we were served by a rotation of retired priests. We weren’t even sure we would get a new priest assigned to us. There is a shortage of priests in the Catholic church, and we’d been warned our churches may be closed. When we heard Fr. David was to be assigned to us, we were thrilled to get a priest– any priest.
Enter Fr. David, a new priest but not a young one. He had been a teacher for a while, then entered the Peace Corps, then after that entered seminary. He had a beard and mustache, and long hair he kept pulled back in a pony tail. He drove a tiny old car with a peace sign on the back. Not quite what our little, rural church was expecting, but we loved him right from the start.
Fr. David is a kind, generous man, with a heart for the Eucharist and a passion for social justice. He was patient with us, slowly but firmly getting our Liturgies and our parishes better in line with what was expected by the Diocese. He listened to our complaints with great forbearance. He shared in the difficult decisions. He brought together our parishes and helped us all to learn to share, to be generous– not an easy task with four independent, proud parishes!
I was on the parish council for 3 years during that time, and was always impressed with how well he handled things. Change comes hard to people, and we had a lot of changes coming from the Diocese during his tenure. He was so patient with our complaints and questions, he was sympathetic to our concerns, yet he never wavered in doing what he needed to do. It could not have been easy. He helped at our Faith Formation classes for the middle and high school students, and my co-teacher and I were very grateful to him for that– not all priests are so generous with their time.
While he was our priest he traveled to Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico, and always shared his experiences afterwards. Several years ago he took a sabbatical in the Holy Land, an experience which touched him deeply. He brought his experiences there into his sermons, enriching us all. He did a PowerPoint presentation of it for our Faith Formation classes, and the kids were almost mesmerized by it– it was a wonderful thing for them to see.
I knew he wouldn’t be with us forever, and had a feeling this would be the year he was transferred. I’m sad to see him go, but I’m grateful for the time we had with him. He is the priest my kids will most remember from their childhood, and I could not ask for a better priest for them than this man, who combined a firm devotion to the Church and the Eucharist and a commitment to live out the command of Jesus to serve others.
His new parishes will be blessed to have him.
As for our cluster of 4 parishes, we have been split up, with 2 joining one cluster and 2 another. This Sunday will be our first Mass with our new priest. I have heard very good things about him. I know there will be adjustments and I’ve already experienced the fears and complaints of some of my fellow parishioners, but most of us are choosing to trust that the Spirit is at work and that, as Julian of Norwich said, All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
In other news, it is Independence Day, it is 10:30 in the morning , and the temperature is already 91. Zoinks!