A Midtown Catholic Parish Puzzle

When I began writing this article last week, it was the same week Fr. Frank was on vacation. While the workload was not much different than other weeks and Fr. Greg at St. Joan of Arc is a big help, it did get me thinking. How are we going to do daily Masses, school Masses, and funeral Masses when we have three parishes and only two priests?

It’s not like I didn’t know this situation was coming, but the blunt reality of it hit me pretty hard this week for some reason. So, being the problem solver that I am, I started considering some different scenarios. Answers were not coming easily. The puzzle really distracted me even during my quiet prayer time in the morning. I wish I could say God gave me an answer and I solved the puzzle, but He didn’t. Rather, I was beginning to envision all the conversations about who gets what Mass, when, and where. I became very discouraged. I began to envision all the difficult and possibly
heated discussions with parishioners about what is fair for each parish. I even began to imagine a strange competition among neighboring parishes for retired or resident priests to live at their rectories so that a parish would not have to change its Mass schedule. I began to envision a very siloed church made up of financially competing parishes, competing for parishioners and money. It’s a scene that would make Jesus roll over in his tomb if He hadn’t already risen from
the dead, of course.

Every pastor faces this dilemma. When you change your Mass schedule, you risk making parishioners mad and losing them. When you lose parishioners, you lose revenue; and when you lose revenue, you risk losing programs, ministries, and extra capitol for building improvements. At the heart of it for most pastors though, is that we risk being a failure, or at least looking like one to others. Yes, because we are human and sometimes not very holy, we pastors often find comfort in our self-importance and false sense of success.

So maybe God did give me an answer. Turns out, the puzzle I was trying to solve was how to make everyone happy, which is impossible. And it turns out, that’s not my task as pastor. My task is to ensure that the word of God is proclaimed in a compelling and effective manner, that the sacraments are reasonably available to all those within our parish boundaries, and that our parishioners join in the mission of reaching more people for Jesus Christ so that more people know that Jesus Christ is within reach. Whatever decisions are made, whether it be about Mass schedules, personnel, or programs, they have to be based on what is best for the whole and not just what is “fair” for a particular parish. We are in this together as a family of parishes. Every parish will have a part to play, but not every parish will have the same part to play.

The real puzzle to solve here at our Midtown Catholic parishes has nothing to do with Mass schedules but has everything to do with how to achieve our ultimate mission to “go and make disciples.” This is what success looks like.

-Fr. Lorig