I have been a priest for 54 years and more than half of that time was spent as a bishop. People are always asking me how I liked the work and were always curious about “what do you do?” My favorite answer to that was always that being a bishop was much like either being an orchestra leader or a fireman. As an orchestra leader, I tied all the various programs of the diocese together, never made a sound and, like the man with the baton, got credit for everything. As a fireman, I found myself constantly putting out fires generated by hypersensitive people who took everything too seriously.
I have given a great deal of thought to the pleasure and pain of those 54 years and there is one thing that I would like to mention to the readers today, and that is one particular aspect of the office of bishop that I enjoyed tremendously. That was the fact that I was in a position, time after time- dozens and possibly hundreds of times- to see extraordinarily wonderful things, good and generous things, important things, generated by an individual person who saw a problem and had the courage to undertake at least a partial solution. I salute those people and thank God for what they have done for others, and I was certainly one of their beneficiaries.
I think I am going to take these programs up one by one and fill you in on so much extraordinary generosity that is accomplished so very quietly with little fanfare or publicity. I will start tomorrow with Casa Marianella over in East Austin.
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I have been a Catholic priest for nearly sixty years and throughout those five decades and more, I have been assigned to a number of different tasks and responsibilities by the Church. However, the one for which I was specifically trained and one that I enjoyed the most was being a parish priest. The parishes are the building blocks of the Church’s structure. While the diocese is more important theologically, the parish is where things get done.
I have always had an idealized picture of parishes in my mind. There is the church standing in the center of the neighborhood where the people live. There are other facilities to be used for other things, such as education and social services. However, the church and its altar is the center of the parish, and that is where on the first day of each week the faithful gather to again place their faith in Jesus Christ, to live out their faith and to live it in company of those who share it with them. A well-administered parish brings joy into the lives of the faithful, provides never-failing encouragement and unites them in a way that is hard to grasp by someone who does not share that faith.
I visualized churches opening their doors on Sunday morning after Mass and seeing people pour out into the lawns and parking lots having had their minds uplifted, their wills stimulated and were ready to go into the struggles of another week. Are all parishes that way? By no means. For a day or two let’s talk about administrative problems in parishes that occasionally cause frustration and disappointment. Tomorrow let’s look at how old and inaccurate parish lists can inflict pain in people’s lives.
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One of the key organizing tools in a well organized operation or program is clear job descriptions; descriptions that pinpoint responsibility, eliminate confusion and enhance productivity. If you were one of the apostles or experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit, do you think you would have immediately thought that you had accepted the organizational responsibility that was attached to his coming? Or that you had been given a job description?
Despite the confidence that came with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles needed to be reminded, and they grasped only slowly that they had been given an assignment- a job description- that they were to be witnesses to Jesus there in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth. That, of course, would include Texas!
Those words were spoken to each one of us and on the basis of our baptism, we are challenged to make some contribution towards fitting that job description into our own life.
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