Pastors, Sheep and a Fishbowl…
Let me just say that it has been a great experience beginning to get to know you. “Thank you!” to the many parishioners who have introduced yourselves. I am so grateful for the warm welcome. Thank you, as well – in advance – to the many who will have to tell me your names for a second… third...or even fourth time. I am trying to learn your names… I pray for your patience and my memory!
At the same time, its summer and I realize things are slow, people are away, and so many more names are on the horizon in September. In the meantime, I am trying to be around and available: outside the church before and after Masses, present to the Summer PREP program, and generally around and involved when people are on campus. I look forward to meeting the whole OLPH family!
In his first Chrism Mass (28 March 2013 Homily), Pope Francis offered a memorable image for pastors, a poignant image that has been quoted many times. He asked all pastors to be shepherds who live with the odor of the sheep. “Be shepherds with the smell of sheep,” he encouraged. In other words, that we rub elbows (do sheep have elbows?) with the sheep, that we get to know our people and their concerns, and that we extend ourselves. He encouraged us to put our own skin and our own hearts on the line, and to seek to bridge that distance that can sometimes grow between priests and parishioners.
This leads me to a keen little project I was tipped off about. Some friends and I gathered together for cycling and a BBQ on Memorial Day Weekend. One of them shared this great idea from Catholic radio. It's a fishbowl. A parishioner drops his or her name and contact information into a bowl. That is the sign that the individual or the family would like to connect with father. It could be coffee or tea, it could be a meal, or just a visit. I have had a few invites already and that is exciting. The
fishbowl affords everyone the same opportunity. Everybody – extroverted and introverted, older and younger, larger or smaller families – have the chance to set up a visit with father. So we will be trying the fishbowl here at OLPH.
In the coming weeks, I will try and get a fishbowl for the back of church. Anyone want to donate a fishbowl? In the meantime, we can use the electronic fishbowl of the inbox or voicemail. Give a call (see front of bulletin), or drop me a line (email@example.com), and we can set up a time to visit.
This will be a great way to get to know the great OLPH family, to get the smell of the sheep, to be present to you and with you. And as you get to know me more, you may feel comfortable unloading the burdens of your heart.
I will close with the closing admonitions of Pope Francis, “Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart. (AMEN.) Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed.” AMEN.
Once again, I ask for your prayers as we begin this journey together. May God bless you and keep you! And may Our Lady of Perpetual Help wrap in the lovely mantel of her protection!