When I was appointed as superior of the Holy Cross Community at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, my brother asked me: “What does a superior do?” Even though I had been a Holy Cross religious for almost 25 years, I kind of was a loss as to define the role. Our constitutions say that a local community has a superior to preside and govern with a council to assist him by advice and consent. Our statutes go on to say that the superior organizes days of recollection and retreats, meets individually with every member of his community at least once a year, grants permission for travel, oversees the finances of the community and sets the regular schedule for the house. I thought to myself, I’ll have all that done in the first couple of weeks. Then what do I do?
Well, I certainly was in for a surprise. Yes, there are the mundane duties of setting the budget, approving the payment of bills, working with our maintenance director to determine how to handle maintenance and improvements on our eight community buildings and 200 acres of grounds, making sure that the kitchen menu is set, the liturgies are well prepared, and presiders assigned, but there also are great moments of ministry and brotherhood:
Like walking with one of our elderly religious through the process of deciding to move back to Holy Cross House, our retirement facility at Notre Dame. Then working with other community members to plan a wonderful send-off dinner for him which included his many friends and former students in the area.
Like welcoming seminarians for the summer and preparing a good program for them that will introduce them to life in a local apostolic community. Then being privileged to receive the renewal of the temporary vows of the professed seminarians.
Like being in the Emergency Room with a community member who suffered a major cardiac arrest at a meeting two hours away from campus, ministering to him, dealing with doctors, communicating with provincial administration, and informing his family and friends. Then visiting him every day at the hospital, while praying that the traffic wouldn’t be too bad. And most importantly the relief and joy everyone felt when he returned home to us.
Just in the last month alone, this local community has had our annual provincial visit and our canonical visit by the Superior General which occurs once every six years. In addition, we’ve had our annual Oktoberfest Celebration, our annual Vocation Night Mass and dinner for our students. We had our House Chapter to elect our delegates to the 2015 Provincial Chapter. And of course we had our weekly ritual of the game watches for Notre Dame Football. All of these things require coordination and planning in the midst of my regular ministries as Director of Campus Ministry and Athletic and Alumni Chaplain. We are a diverse community of men here at Stonehill and sometimes being superior is like herding cats, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Fr. Tony Szakaly, C.S.C., is the local superior of the Holy Cross community at Stonehill College, Director of Campus Ministry, and Alumni Minister at Stonehill College. A South Bend native, he received a Holy Cross education at every level of his schooling, from the C.S.C. sisters in grade school, the C.S.C. brothers in high school, and C.S.C. priests at the University of Notre Dame. He took final vows in 1991 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1992.