Our seminarian correspondent, Mr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., has filed another report from his pastoral year living and working at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, AZ.
Recently our pastor announced to the parish that he was being reassigned to a new parish and that a new Holy Cross priest would be coming to take over as pastor in the summer. While our parishioners were certainly saddened by the news, I was surprised by the number of parishioners who came up to me to say that though they were sad, they were encouraged that our pastor was going to be replaced by another Holy Cross priest, and how thankful they were to be at a parish staffed by members of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
We reflect often in formation as to what makes us different, what makes us distinct as both religious and priests, how our identity as religious influences the ministry we perform, yet in the life of parish ministry it is easy for those distinctions to go unseen. In some of our apostolates it is easier to see the uniqueness of the charism of Holy Cross in our ministry, however in parish ministry, because the nature of our ministry is the same as that of our diocesan brothers that distinction is easily blurred.
Yet given our parishioners’ reaction, there must be something unique about our parish ministry. They might not be able to identify what exactly it is per say, but they can sense that there is something palpable about the way we do parish ministry in Holy Cross that makes it uniquely Holy Cross. What our parish does is the same as every other parish, we administer the sacraments, visit the sick, evangelize and teach through religious education, youth ministry, and RCIA programs, yet there is something unique and different about the way in which we go about doing our ministry that is noticeable to our parishioners and is the key to our life as priests and religious. This is not to say that our ministry is better, holier, or more effective than that of our diocesan brothers, but simply that the way we do ministry is shaped by our vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Our life in Holy Cross, our experience in community, forged by the vows we profess and the charism of our founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, is an essential element of our ministerial lives and it affects everything that we do. When we teach, we teach as Holy Cross religious; when we serve the poor, we serve as Holy Cross religious; and when we shepherd a parish, we do so as Holy Cross religious. The spirituality that Fr. Moreau gave us, the ability to find hope in the cross of Christ significantly influences the way we approach parish ministry and our relationship with our parishioners. Our public commitment to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and the reality of the living of our common life also shape the way we understand and approach our ministry. When we comfort a grieving family, or speak about the stress of raising a family in the modern world, or tackle the challenge of the many distractions the modern world provides, we cannot help but to do so as Holy Cross religious and priests. Our life in Holy Cross allows us to connect in a unique way with our parishioners and gives us a unique share in their life.
As Holy Cross religious it is important for me to constantly remind myself that my ministry comes out of the vows I profess. As a seminarian as well I hope that one day my ministry will also be rooted in the ordained priesthood of Jesus Christ. These two foundations are not unrelated, rather they are mutually supportive and come together to create a distinct vocation in Christ, to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world through both the administration of the Sacraments and the profession of the Evangelical Counsels.