"Pastor...what does that mean for you?"

Paul Z., a man whom I have never met, lives in Ohio.  His brother-in-law is a musician I used to sing with (one of my favorite choral directors).  Paul and I are brother-Christians though of different branches of the Faith.  Our paths cross in cyberspace every once in a while.  We greet each other with a nod or a few words.  

A couple of days ago, reading that I was to become pastor again, this time in the US, he asked me about it: "what does that mean for you?"  This is a question I have been thinking about a lot over the past couple of weeks.  My simple answer at the time was: "I'm approaching it with a mixture of trepidation, anticipation and confidence in the Lord's wisdom, love and power."  Paul's very kind response was, "...we'll pray for his wisdom, love and power...it doesn't get any better than that!"  A very welcome reply!  

All of St. Augustine's wonderful theological works grew out of his life as a bishop (a pastor-in-chief of a regional church [diocese]).  All the things he wrote about being a bishop apply equally to being a pastor.  Augustine talked a lot about the Second Coming of Christ.  Mostly he preached in joyful anticipation of the Lord coming to establish his Kingdom on earth, but sometimes he spoke of the holy fear appropriate to the final judgement.   He said to the people one time (and I'm paraphrasing): "When you stand before Christ, the just judge, you will have to answer only for yourself.  You have responsibility for your own soul, but so do I as your bishop.  Therefore, when I stand before the judgement seat, I will have to answer for myself and for you."  Already I feel that responsibility; I know that I have to prepare myself well, work hard, and rely on God's grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I know that like Augustine, it will be my responsibility to lead wisely, to try to keep the parish community centered on Jesus through liturgy and all kinds of other activities, and to pray for them, to intercede for them as Augustine did for his own congregation.  I have in fact already begun to pray for them.  

In another place, Augustine says (again, my paraphrasing): "What I am with you consoles me; what I am for you terrifies me.  With you I am a Christian.  For you I am a bishop."  

One thing that consoles me a lot is knowing who I have been teamed with.  Jorge Luis has already been ministering in the parish for two years.  He knows and loves the people there.  Jim has a huge treasure-load of experience and knowledge and not only worked in the parish some years ago, but was actually ordained there.  I am very thankful.  And I am acutely aware that having three priests on staff at one parish in the USA in the year 2010 may strike many as being a huge luxury - the vast majority of parishes in the country are by now one-priest parishes, I am nearly certain.  But we are Augustinian friars as well as Catholic priests.  Living together "in harmony in one mind and one heart intent upon Godis the basis for the Rule handed down to us from Augustine - his short set of instructions for those who have come together to live the Gospel of Jesus.  And it is our hope that from this Christ-centered, prayerful fraternity, will grow the spiritual energy we need to serve the wider Christian community of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish.  [The sketch above is an artist's rendering of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church.  I was there once for a First Mass about 35 years ago.]

That's another thing that consoles me.  The parish itself!  I have been told that it is a very vibrant, multi-cultural parish.  I look forward to getting to know them well:  the staff and volunteers who work so hard to make a parish a vibrant community, the children in the school, the man and woman in the pew who come to Mass with hearts wanting to worship, yearning to belong, desiring to be healed, and as much as possible those who because of poor health or old age cannot leave their homes.  
The Augustinians have been walking with this community since 1898.  I'm looking forward to being part of that community and serving them as best I/we can.  I know that they will be teaching me and my fellow friars about walking with Jesus through the way they live the Gospels.  

Another consolation is knowing that I have the opportunity to attend a 5-day workshop for new pastors in North Jersey in two weeks.  A lot of it will be centered on the nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day matters that a Catholic pastor has to deal with in coordinating the smooth running of the parish community in cooperation with the regular staff, the generous volunteers, the parishioners, and the other priests on the team.  I'm sure the workshop will help me to access many useful resources.  As I noted elsewhere on this blog, the last time I was pastor it was another country, another century.  So much is different here and now!
I'm also looking forward to meeting with Fr. John DelloRusso, the present pastor, along with many of the staff members next week to learn from them about the parish.  John loves this community and all its members very deeply.  He told me he wants to do all he can to make this a smooth transition.  I value his help so much.  What I learn from him next week will be extremely important for me.  

Add to that the fact that I will be on a retreat based on the teachings of St. Augustine the week before I begin my new assignment.  I signed up for the retreat weeks before I found out about the assignment; the timing could not be better!  

So all of the above is what I mean when I say, "I'm approaching it with a mixture of trepidation, anticipation and confidence in the Lord's wisdom, love and power."

This picture of the Infant Jesus and Mary is dear to all Augustinians.  It is painted on a small panel of plaster and resides in an Augustinian-staffed church in Genazzano, Italy.  How the painting arrived there is a story for another time.  This is a painting of Mary under the title of Our Mother of Good Counsel, patroness of the parish.  Our Mother of Good Counsel is a very popular Marian devotion for many people in many countries.  Especially popular among a number of recent popes!  Popes often pay a prayerful visit to the church where the painting is before making a big decision.  I'm pretty sure that my own devotion to her will only increase in the coming years. 

Please pray for me, the other friars, and for the people of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish.  Pray to Jesus.  Ask Mary and any other saint you may feel close to to intercede with the Lord on our behalf.   



Sun on the Beach

The sun on the beach at Ocean City, NJ was diffuse for the most part this afternoon.   At least the sky overhead and the sky out to sea was.  Looking inland, the sky was a brilliant blue.

Drove Mom down to South Jersey to see Aunt Suzanne today.  We had lunch at Fitzpatrick's Jewish Deli in Somer's Point, our favorite lunch place in that part of the state.  More photos of the day here.  Huge orange octopus.  Kites that were 11 feet wide.

Aunt Suzanne and Mom
Here's Aunt Suzanne and Mom looking at photos from Mom's trip to Ireland.

Tomorrow I will complete the work I came down here to do for Mom and drive back up to Massachusetts.

This photo and the one up top were taken from more or less the same spot, minutes apart.  This one facing west, inland, and the other facing east to the sea.  Another photo, of the boardwalk, facing south, shows you the two "sides" of the sky around that time.

Click on any of these photos to see them in larger sizes. 


Back in Pennsylvania / Project 365

Though I was here less than 10 days ago, I'm back for a couple of days to help Mom with some things she needs to get done.  I usually stay at St. Augustine Friary at Villanova and drive back and forth to Mom's place.  About 25 minutes with no traffic.  Drove down from Massachusetts yesterday and was making very good time until I hit the NJTPK.  There must have been 3 different accidents, causing backups all along that stretch of the pike.  

Koa wood ukulele, bought in Kauai, March of 2010
Inspired by a former coworker, for almost a year I have been engaged in my own version of Project 365 - posting one photo a day for a year.  I'm a little bit behind in the posting, but have been faithful in taking the photos daily.  Some days when I'm too busy I either skip, or take a photo of some random object or objects in my room.  The photo the left is a case in point.  Took it using the camera built into my MacBook.  The app always switches left and right for some reason, like a mirror.  I don't skip often.  It has been a good experience and I do think my photos have gotten better.  My eye has improved.  My familiarity with the features of my camera has progressed.  It has been good, but I will be glad when July 16 rolls around.  I will still continue to take a lot of photos, but I'm glad that the year will be up before I move to Staten Island.  Being pastor and a new member of that friary will take up most of the energy of my waking hours.  


Moe's 50th

Father Maurice (Moe) Mahoney, OSA came around today to concelebrate the noon Mass in English with me.  Afterwards he joined Albert and me at Rosario's for lunch.

Father Maurice (Moe) Mahoney, OSA
Moe is in the US right now on vacation.  He works in Nagasaki, Japan.  He attended the Chapter in Villanova last week.  Then last Sunday we had a Mass and party here in Lawrence to celebrate his 50th anniversary of ordination.  Moe studied theology in Rome in the late 1950s and then was assigned to Japan where he has served for all 50 years of his priesthood.  It was something Moe said on a visit to our seminary in DC in the 70s that started me thinking about volunteering for the Japanese missions and when I moved there in 1977 he took me under his wings and showed me around very often.  Moe is a delight to be with.  Very clever with words, both in Japanese and in English.  He also speaks Italian and holds his own in Spanish too.

Lately his back has been giving him trouble but he is looking forward to returning to his work in Nagasaki soon.  Moe loves ministering to the sick and to the Seinen-kai (young adults club) at the parish.

It was my pleasure to host 8 guys, most currently working in Japan and one who served there when I was there and now works in South Africa - Jack McAtee - over the weekend.  Also Tom Dwyer who has recently returned home from Japan to retire.  The common room was crowded especially at meal times and late at night with friends catching up on news with each other and reminiscing about old times.  Lots of laughter.  I drove 6 of them to Logan Airport at 6 AM Monday morning to fly back to Japan.  With Moe back in the US for vacation, Mike Hilden is the only American OSA from our province currently working in Japan.  There were 10 of us there in my early years in Japan.


TD left today / Started packing today

My good buddy Tom Dwyer left today after spending 5 days here in Lawrence with me.  Tom was one of my mentors in Japan.  He recently came back to the US to retire after working 52 years in Japan.  We had a very nice visit together.  Tom is extremely kind and fiercely loyal to his friends; I'm glad he is one of mine.  Last night we went to a SoHIP concert in Andover. The all-women ensemble played music by 18th century Italian women composers.  Maura and Patricia and Arnie were there too.  I drove Tom to South Station this morning for a 9:15 train.  5 hours from Boston to 30th Street Station on Philly, then out to Villanova by the SEPTA train.  He called me at 4:25 to say he arrived OK.

You can click on these pictures to see them in a larger format.  

This afternoon I started sorting my books.  My goal is to find homes for 1/2 of my books and over 1/2 of my clothes.  I have already found homes for 75% or so of my musical instruments.  Down to one guitar and my ukulele.  Oh, the tin whistles!  Forgot.  I only need the D and the low D.   I think I have C, G and Bb.  Any takers?

Moving on to Staten Island

Last Sunday Padre Jorge made the announcement at all the Masses, so I can tell you now. I will be moving on to Staten Island in August. I am thankful for being assigned here to the Merrimack Valley again after 14 months in western North Carolina. I have enjoyed working with the people of the parish. My Spanish has gotten better but still not anywhere close to perfect. (Jorge accurately made reference to this in his announcement. Something like: He reads his sermons well but still can't really speak the language.) It has afforded me the opportunity to sing with the Andover Choral Society for one more year, bringing the total up to 14 years. The opportunity to celebrate Mass and preach in Japanese again (only every two months for the Boston-area Japanese Catholic Community - I was just getting to know them).

Our new Prior Provincial, Fr. Mickey Genovese, has asked me to be pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Staten Island, NY. I was pastor of a parish before in Nagoya, Japan before. But it was another century, another country. This will be full of new challenges. I report for work on August 16. I am grateful that I will have the opportunity to attend a week-long workshop for new pastors in NJ in mid-July. Last week at Villanova I met informally with two of the other friars I will be living with. I am was pleased to discover that all three of us seem to be on the same page regarding our expectations concerning Augustinian common life.  In two weeks I will go to Staten Island to meet with Fr. John DelloRusso, the outgoing pastor.


Provincial Chapter

Today was the second full day of our Provincial Chapter (meeting) that happens every 4 years.  I have attended most of them, even when I was out of the Order for 12 years.  I am extremely encouraged by the content of the discussions and the attitudes of the men who are taking part.  Especially regarding the importance and practicalities of community life.

Also, I met with the two friars I will be working with at the parish I will be assigned to in August.  I was very happy to hear that we all seem to be on the same page in terms of our expectations and motivations.  This new situation could work out really well.

Here's a photo of 10 friars from my novitiate class (1967-1968) who are attending the meetings this week at Villanova.  The novitiate is a very special year and you have a special bond with those you spend it with.  It's really good to be with them again for a few days.


My brain works

My brain works funny.  Our week-long meeting (chapter) began last night.  There were a bunch of guys from our Japanese missions there.  Most do not speak English.  I was chattering along with them in Japanese when one of the younger ones asked me about my current work.  I mentioned that 90% of my parishioners are Spanish speakers.  They asked me about studying Spanish.  As soon as I started to tell them about it, the Japanese-speaking functions in my brain began to shut down as my brain was suddenly flooded with elements of Spanish vocabulary and syntax.


On the road to Villanova

Writing this in a hotel room in Connecticut.  I will arrive at Villanova today before 3 PM in time for a ceremony that will make one of the parishioners of our parish in North Carolina an honorary Augustinian.  Shirley is in her late 80s and is very often the altar server at morning Mass at St. Margaret's in Maggie Valley during the week.  In her white alb and sneakers she is always on top of everything.  Helped  me a lot 2 years ago when I was getting used to celebrating Mass again after 12 years off.  Especially things like kissing the altar at the beginning and end of Mass - gestures that are skipped in Mass in Japanese.

Then tonight we begin 5 days of meetings.  As many Augustinians who can attend this once-every-4-year week of meetings called a Provincial Chapter.  During this time we try to determine our direction for the next 4 years.  Mickey Genovese take office during this week as our new Prior Provincial.

Ora pro nobis!


Mistaken Assumption

Yesterday I was in my office when the church secretary called and said: "I think you want to take this call. It's a Mr. Makiyama*.  So I thanked her, pushed the button and said, 「牧山さん、初めまして。リアム神父ともうします。」["Hello, Mr. Makiyama.  Happy to meet you.  I'm Father Liam."].  To which he responded, "Am I talking with a priest?  Is that Japanese?  My stepfather's name was Makiyama.  That's why I have the name.  My mother married a Japanese guy.  You a priest?"

I apologized for assuming he spoke Japanese and went on with the conversation.  I assumed it was one of the members of the Boston-area Japanese Catholic Community for which I celebrate Mass in Japanese every couple of months.

*not the person's actual name, of course. 


Walk in the woods

Tuesdays are my day off.  
Went for a walk in the woods today with a friend.  The weather was good when we left the car.  Less than 30 minutes into the walk, the weather turned ugly.   Thunder in the distance.  Lightning visible over the water.  By the time we returned to the car we were pretty wet.  


Corpus Christi

I am very amazed by the devotion of the people of this parish.  The 12:15 PM Mass today lasted for nearly 2 hours and then there was a procession through the streets of the parish for about an hour, ending with Benediction of the Blessed Sacraments on the steps of the church.

Since 1848 this has been a church of mostly first and second generation immigrants.  Irish first.  Now mostly Hispanics.


Not really anything new, except I probably will be moving in August

Yes, I got the call this morning.  I report to my new place on August 16.  Subject to change.  Details still fuzzy.  Will let you know when I get more details.