June 10, 2012
“I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer.3:15). With these prophetic words the Lord promises that he will not leave his people without shepherds to guide, gather and sanctify them. The People of God experience the reliability of this prophetic message as the Lord continues to call ordinary men to priestly ministry in service to his people. Through sacred ordination priests are configured to Christ the head and shepherd of the Church in whose name and person they act when carrying out their sacred duties. Those who are called are in turn sent. “Go therefore, make disciples of all nations” (Mt.28:19).
One of my most important responsibilities in the exercise of the episcopal ministry entrusted to me is the calling and sending of sacred ministers to teach, govern and sanctify in the name of Christ and his Church. In the name of Christ I call men to ordination, confirming the authenticity of their vocation. In the name of the Christ, I entrust them with a pastoral office, thus sending them to carry out their ministry in communion with Christ, the Head of the Church.
This week and in the weeks ahead a number of our parishes will be bidding farewell to their pastors and welcoming new priests. In addition, several of our priests will be taking on new archdiocesan ministries in service to brother priests and priestly vocations. I am in awe of the generous spirit of our priests and their willingness put aside personal preferences in order to serve where they are needed. They are indeed shepherds after the heart of Christ, who came to serve not to be served.
The assignment of priests to various pastoral responsibilities within the Archdiocese is a responsibility which I undertake with great humility and only after much prayer and consultation. Our priests are men with remarkably diverse talents and gifts. They bring the perspectives of their different cultures, their particular generation and different experiences of formation and priestly ministry. What they share is a profound sense of unity in mission and in the one eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. They are shepherds whose mission is to serve.
Even as many of our priests are preparing for these transitions, I realize that these changes also affect the life of their parish communities in a variety of ways. These new pastoral assignments will affect the status quo. Neither priests nor parishes are simply interchangeable. Even as each of our priests are uniquely gifted with their own particular talents, styles and personalities, so also our parishes. As one who rather recently began a new ministry here in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, I know that new pastoral assignments call for a certain patience, trust and good will from both the priest (archbishop) and parish.
I firmly believe that the Lord continues to provide shepherds for his Church. God keeps his promises. His providential hand is at work today, even in these pastoral assignments. The Lord is renewing his Church and calling us all to a new attentiveness to his grace and presence in the new possibilities, challenges and opportunities which we are invited to embrace. The generosity and faith with which our priests and parishes welcome these transitions have far reaching consequences. Among these, such generosity can be the occasion for sowing the seed of a vocation in the heart of young person who will be inspired by the witness of such practical faith in action.
Please join me in praying for the priests and parish communities embarking together on a new stage in their journey of faith.