Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples that unless He went away, they would not receive the Holy Spirit. It is possible that some of the disciples thought he was just making excuses, trying to cover up the real reason he was leaving.
While we know that it would have been foolish for the disciples to think that, nonetheless it is easy for people to suspect ulterior motives when somebody moves. Perhaps it is an indication of how vulnerable we are, that our fear leads us to suspect some threat, insult, or injury.
This is the time of year that priests move. Fr. DeRosa and I aren’t going anywhere, but Father Nick is going to his next assignment as Dean of the seminary in his home diocese of Rockville Centre. We all knew this was coming, as soon as he completed his doctoral studies. So without any fear or rancor, we can rejoice this weekend in all he has done for our parish as we acknowledge how much we will miss him.
But other parishes – including our neighbors St. Andrew and St. John the Baptist – are experiencing pastor changes this summer, and we know the temptation people will have to ask: Why is the Cardinal doing this to us? Why is the Cardinal doing this to him? Why did he want to move on? Why is he being taken from there and put here?
Oh, it is not just priests, either. It can happen with anybody else we count on to be there for us. This is also the time of year when teachers, including but not limited to those in our school, make their moves. It’s obvious why the change is needed when there is a new baby, but otherwise there is always the temptation to suspect that there is some more insidious force at work – especially if it someone with whom we had grown quite comfortable.
It was with great grief that I heard from Camille Frezzo that she is retiring this summer after fourteen years of leading our Contemporary Ensemble. I would have insisted she stay, except that her husband, Ron, is also leaving his decades-long work at Little Flower. They want more time to enjoy being grandparents – especially on weekends. They will both keep teaching during the week, Camille here in our school.
So, of course I am disappointed. But why would I suspect any other reason for her to leave? Just to make me miserable? It will be hard for her to step away from the choir she has led not only in music but also in prayer and friendship; why make it more difficult by taking offense, or doubting her reasons? I know her granddaughter, so it seems quite reasonable to me – darn it.
One of the great things about being pastor here is that I get to stay for a longer time. But being the one with the stability means I have to endure other people’s leaving. I mentioned last year, about this time, how it affects me when parishioners move on. Similarly, I feel not only my own loss, but also that of the whole parish, when the folks who have been making major contributions to the life, operation, and character of the parish move on – sometimes after many years.
But I have to trust that no one, least of all the Lord, is acting out of spite when these life changes occur. If He Himself had to move on so that the disciples could get what they needed, it is eminently believable that He has great things in store for the ones moving, and for us who are staying. Come Holy Spirit!