July 08, 1989
or 28 years ago last Saturday
I was Ordained a Priest.
With family and friends to help celebrate, including three US Air Force Chaplains that had been with me through formation, my Bishop ordained a priest. Things were amazing. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.
Then things changed. I found myself on the outside with a bishop that believed my education was all wrong. We were to become warriors, to bring the light of TRUTH into the next millennium. We had to judge people sinners, tell them what they were doing was wrong and that the difficulties in their life were their Calvary and to basically offer it up. There didn’t seem to be any compassion in this and the idea of the individual conscience as the primary agent in a moral decision was gone.
I didn’t see a way that my vision of priesthood and my bishops could ever come together. Disillusioned, I saw no way back. I had a good life, I did some amazing things, but there were periods of huge darkness where I was very angry. Last Sunday’s Gospel was that the yoke is easy and burden is light. I would get angry at words like that. It wasn’t easy and the burden wasn’t light.
God always works, even through our mistakes…
Through out our salvation history, God comes to us in threes. I had 3 priests that were with me through all of this. One I met in high school, he was the first I talked to about being a priest and he is now a retired bishop. Another was chaplain when my parents were in Omaha while I was in College, and the last I met while in the Theology; he supervised me as a chaplain candidate and also my parent’s priest in New Jersey. The were all with me and sort of took me as I was. Most of my friends in my diocese dropped me and that was partly probably my attitude, but it still hurt.
I had confided in the second priest that I was thinking of returning to active ministry. He agreed. Unfortunately, before I could do much, my dad died unexpectedly on a Cruise. I spent next year helping my mom at which point she was diagnosed with Cancer and died 6 months after that. Knowing that no one in their right mind would talk to me after losing both parents so quickly, I waited. About 2 years later priest 2 calls about and says, I think it is time to start up again. So I did.
My diocese was not returning calls. I would talk to secretaries and send email and everyone was very busy. I decided to talk to people here and that wasn’t easy at first either, luckily my pastor, and real estate client, introduced me to Archbishop Gustavo on Epiphany morning and things started to change. The next day I had already set an appointment with the Vicar for Priests for San Antonio. He was/is amazing. There were many meetings and they didn’t really know how this process was to work. Not many priests show up after so many years and want back.
Popes changed and more things seemed to align. I was prepared to go back to Denver. I only knew that I had to get back to what God had called and created me for. Prepared to serve anywhere, I wrote a letter to the Apostolic Delegate. My stance was wondering if there was another place I should be sending my letters, instead of my former diocese to get this process going. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on is that my former diocese needed to be involved.
I got a response from Denver and as you can imagine, my former bishop was not happy that I had written to Nuncio. He had found a 5 page protocol or process for my return and was very clear that even after doing all those things, I still might not be able to return.
Best Rejection ever….
One of the first steps was to find a Benevolent Ordinary (Bishop). I realized with that that my diocese wouldn’t take me back. For a split second I thought, “what the heck,” and then a big smile. They had paid for my education, I would have gone back, I loved it there, I still have a huge number of friends there, but I now had a new opportunity. Archbishop Gustavo, barely knowing me, said yes.
Imagine after the rejection of many years ago, the trouble getting returned calls and emails, to have this incredibly busy man say yes and take a chance on me, simply amazing. This is all by March of the year I met him.
The Vicar for Clergy, Fr. Jim, called and said they were assigning me to OLPH on July 1 to work with Fr. Eric to start the internship process. That year turned into almost 3 years.
I would count the days from every letter to Rome, so that I would now when to start expecting a response. They got quicker and quicker, but took what seemed like forever to get the final yes. Well, the letter giving the OK had some requirements from my former bishop. We hoped for Our Lady of Guadalupe, but no. Archbishop even had me at ceremony in case letter excardination came from Denver.
One more things to learn
I was getting mad, I was acting like a little child some time. It was taking my former bishop more time to respond than Rome. After all this, how is this fair. My former bishop, who I had once been friends with before he was ordained a bishop, was judging me. As my bishop he never took the time to speak or meet meet with me. I had gone there a few times and he was never available. I went to Fr. Thumma, a very holy priest. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, pray for him. I blurted out, PRAY FOR WHO, he calmly responded, your bishop. I was incredulous. Me pray for him. I listed all the things I felt he had done to me.
Pray for Him…
Fr. Thumma just said, “pray for him,” so I did. At first I prayed like a petulant 10 year old, but after a day, my prayer transformed for my former bishop. At that point the yoke started getting lighter, the burden easier and I found a peace that I am not sure I had ever found before. No matter what I knew this where in God’s hands.
At that point, cemented in my brain was, I must always work at keeping myself out of the way and just let God. Withing 30 days, all the paperwork returned. We signed official paperwork on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The process complete.
It isn’t always easy being a Pastor, but I wake up every morning excited for my day. I have a great life! A parishioner pointed out, how amazingly God’s plan worked so that I can be here, now.
Thanks to all that prayed and helped during all those years, especially, Bob, Jim and Ed who for better or worse, lived it all with me!