Several weeks ago I commented to our parish secretary, Gail, that I have never been bored as a priest. Gail thought that comment would make a good topic for one of my vocation blogs, and so I’ll focus this, my last blog post, on that reality in my life as a priest.
This experience includes my 10 years outside of parish ministry as Vocation Director and as Director of Campus Ministry. As Vocation Director, there were, fortunately, many young men interested in the Congregation of Holy Cross with whom I was in contact, keeping me fairly busy. Between my campus ministry work and living in a residence hall at Stonehill College, my life was sometimes a bit too hectic, but at the same time exciting and enjoyable.
I must say, however, that parish ministry has been the most fulfilling and enjoyable ministry I have experienced as a priest. In my parish work, I interact with people from birth to death and every moment in between.
I share in the joy of young couples preparing for the sacrament of Christian marriage, baptizing their firstborn in the Christian faith, or participating with their child in his or her First Communion. I so much enjoy the opportunities I have to interact with our parish children in their religious education classes or in summer vacation bible school, and with our teenagers in their confirmation preparation or in youth ministry. I also have many opportunities to be present to the adults of our parish in the programs and activities in which so many of them participate: having breakfast with the Forever Young group, lunch with the widows and widowers, or dinner with our Friends in Faith group; visiting the Bible study group; or working with parishioners in the commissions and committees that sponsor so many activities in the parish.
It is a privilege to be with individuals and families in times of difficulty: counseling a parishioner, married couple, or family; visiting those ill in the hospital or the elderly in the nursing home; celebrating the sacrament of the sick with someone anticipating surgery or nearing death; meeting with a family to plan the Mass of Christian Burial for a loved one.
Of course, among the most rewarding aspects of the life of a priest is celebrating the Eucharist. Doing so in the midst of a parish community as a pastor or parochial vicar enhances the sense of fulfillment that this sacramental ministry brings to a priest.
Along with the exciting and diverse ministry of the parish priest is an equally important reason why I have never found myself bored: when I do find myself with some unexpected free time, especially during the summer when the parish schedule slows down a bit, I can devote that time to theological and spiritual reading or to extra prayer. One who knows how to pray is never without something to do with unexpected free time.
It has been a pleasure sharing my experience of parish ministry for the past year through this blog. I pray that God’s grace will guide you in your discernment of His will and direction in your life.
Fr. Jim Fenstermaker, C.S.C., is Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, Mass. He has been a monthly contributor this year to the Spes Unica Blog, reflecting on the work of Holy Cross in parish ministry. We are thankful for his posts and more important for his vocation as a Holy Cross priest. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross priests and brothers in parochial ministry as we seek to bring hope to the Church and world.