After 27 years, priesthood continues to exceed expectations

| Father Charles Lachowitzer | May 18, 2017

Twenty-seven years ago on June 2, I was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. I had never before known such joy. I offer my support and prayers to all of our priests who celebrate their anniversary this month and to all who will be ordained for our archdiocese May 27.

What I did not know at my ordination was that my life ahead as a parish priest was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Even during that first weekend in my first assignment, I only glimpsed what would be involved in the next 23 years of parish life. Yet as a baby priest, I did not yet know of the depth of joy in the priesthood that would persist even through the deepest sorrows in the people of God.

It still overwhelms me that I get paid to pray and to say “God bless you” even when no one sneezes. In that first year of priesthood, I was amazed that the miraculous presence of Jesus Christ was in my daily routine of the privileges of proclaiming the Gospel, administering the sacraments, serving a community of faith, and working for justice and peace to build on earth the kingdom of God.

All the privileges that have been mine pale in comparison to the gifts in my life of incredible parishioners, lifelong friends and so many pilgrims on the way to the heaven that is yet to come. I am greatly blessed by all their prayers and support. I am thankful as well for all the lay leaders who made me look like a more effective leader than I really was.

I have grown so much as a priest through the parishes I have been privileged to serve. Even in my two pastorates spanning some 20 years, the parish shaped me far more than I shaped the parish. Yes, I was a good shepherd. No, I was not the potter. I did not know when I was ordained — let alone when I was a seminarian — that as a priest, I would be the clay.

For the past three-and-a-half years, I have served as the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I have looked at the priesthood and parish life through the lens of a microscope, studying and responding to slides smeared with the pathology of diseases in the priesthood, viruses of discord in parishes and the dead cells of fiscal insolvency.

With so many friends asking me, “How are you doing?” while they silently pray that I have a short answer, I often simply say, “I’m all right because we are doing what’s right.” I still believe that I am a witness to a remarkable chapter of reform, renewal and transformation. Sure, there is a lot of work yet to be done to move on as a Church of healing and reconciliation. It has been a steep learning curve for me. Awareness is a painful process, and this necessarily precedes any work on healing.

Nonetheless, every time I look up from the microscope, blink my eyes a few times to adjust to the light and look around at the lived life of faith, I am given great encouragement, hope and joy. There is so much good happening in so many parishes, schools, outreach agencies, individuals and community foundations.

But it really should not surprise faithful disciples that every day at the chancery, the pastoral center for the archdiocese, the grace of God has been made manifest in the efforts of a talented and dedicated staff. We are most fortunate for and inspired by the leadership of Bishop Andrew Cozzens and Archbishop Bernard Hebda. Every day, in the movement of the Holy Spirit, a healing balm is gently placed on the wounds in the body of Christ.

The grace of that beautiful sacrament of holy orders still moves me to know a joy in the priesthood I could not have imagined when I was ordained. It shouldn’t surprise me either that still today, I have a peace in my heart that truly surpasses all understanding.

Después de 27 años, el sacerdocio continúa excediendo expectativas

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Category: Only Jesus

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