Saturday, July 01, 2017

Predictability

We have news from our old friend, Fr. Nick Zientarski.  This week he reported for duty as Pastor at Saint Christopher Church in Baldwin, New York.  Since leaving our rectory here, where he was in residence for five years while pursuing his doctorate in sacramental theology, he has been assigned to seminary work as Dean, first at Huntington, then at Saint Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie, where the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre send their candidates for priesthood.  This is his first pastorate, and his first time living in a parish rectory since moving out of here.  He is excited.
How pleased he is to be moving in to a place he has never lived before, in a parish full of people he doesn’t know.  And, judging by the sign, they are at least as excited to be receiving him. The previous pastor there was quite good, and well liked, so it’s not as if they are excited to be delivered from some burden or other difficulty.  It is unlikely that they know Fr. Nick; he has been working outside the diocese for most of the past eleven years.   So you have a pastor who is convinced he is going to love these people he has never met, and a parish full of people who are convinced that they are going to love this pastor, whom they have never met.  Odd, isn’t it?   
This scenario is playing out all over America now, as dioceses and parishes move through the customary time of reassignments.  It happens all over the Church around the world, too, though not necessarily at this point on the calendar.  Parishes receive new priests, and priests receive new parishes, and most of the time there is eager anticipation and generous welcome.  
Why should parishioners expect to love someone they have never met, and what makes a priest think he will be able to love so many people with whom he has no prior connection?  All I can liken it to is the other relationship universally love is assumed to blossom deeply and immediately where no prior acquaintance, nor mutual selection has taken place: parents and children.  They do not choose one another, but everybody expects love to be the initial and lasting response.  And so it is.
The Church gives us our family, and arranges “marriages” between pastor and parish that bear fruit in life and love.  Prior acquaintance, tests for interpersonal compatibility, and convincing courtship are omitted from the formation of these relationships, but the expectation is that they will be good and holy and life giving.  And so they are.
Father Nick, our good friend, is entering a new chapter in the love story between him and the Church.  But he has not forgotten us, who long ago welcomed him with similar excitement and without any knowledge of what about him there would be to love.  He has sent us more than a postcard; he is sending a person, in fact, a priest.  In August we will welcome a new Fr. Jason Grisafi, also a priest of Rockville Centre like Fr. Nick, to be in residence here while studying Sacred Scripture at Catholic University.  Because Fr. Grisafi is ordained only a few years, Fr. Nick was also his Dean while he was a seminarian, and has played “matchmaker” by arranging for him to be part of our rectory and parish life. 
He has never set foot on the property, and in fact he and I have never met, but we are confident that this will bear great fruit.  We should be excited.

Monsignor Smith

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