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To serve and not to be served

Among the greatest joys I have as a bishop is the opportunity to ordain new priests.  There is a wonderful sense of fatherhood in ordaining men who will become the spiritual fathers to so many throughout a lifetime of priestly ministry.  These men join the ranks of a bishop’s closest and most cherished collaborators for service to the entire Church.

On Saturday, June 29, I ordained Father Brian Buettner a priest of Jesus Christ for service to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. We welcome him!  Ordinations are an occasion of tremendous joy and thanksgiving, not only for the new priest and his family, but for the whole Church.  Priestly ordination marks the beginning of a lifelong ministry of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding God’s people as an icon of Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.

Among the greatest responsibilities that every diocesan bishop has is to provide and assign priests to serve the people of God.   This year we have one new priest.  Next year, God willing, we hope to ordain five.  Please continue to pray that the Lord will provide abundant laborers for his vineyard!  The harvest is rich, but it is increasingly difficult to provide priestly laborers for our parishes.


In the week ahead many of our priests will begin new pastoral assignments.  They have to say their farewells and prepare to begin new ministries in another part of God’s vineyard.  These transitions can be times of sorrow and uncertainty for both priests and their people.  These can difficult times.  They can also be times of renewal.  I have the greatest admiration for the generosity of our priests who accept these new pastoral responsibilities with the heart of a true servant and shepherd.  I am also grateful for the understanding of the parishioners for whom these changes may often be difficult.

These changes come about because of many different circumstances.  After a lifetime of service, priests retire, or their energies wane.  We have recently had the painful experience of the unexpected death of one of our beloved pastors, Father Roberto Quant.  Our international priests, who make up an increasingly significant part of our presbyterate, eventually must return to their own dioceses.  For these and a whole variety of other reasons changes of pastoral assignment are often necessary.

Each priest and each parish is unique.  After much prayer and considerable consultation I make the best decision possible given our limited pool of personnel and the whole variety of circumstances.  Each decision has to take into account the good of the priest, the needs of each parish, as well as the entire Archdiocese. There is no “app” for that!  There is no neat formula.  I trust that the guidance of the Holy Spirit, however, is very much involved in this process.  Please continue to pray for your priests.  Pray for vocations.  Pray for me.  And if you are a parishioner whose parish is receiving a new pastor, please welcome him with an open heart and a spirit of willing cooperation.