Sunday, September 25, 2016

So long, Father

[Nota: I edited the original post considerably as giving away too much information about Father's whereabouts and his activities could potentially endanger him]

Our pastor of 11 years left our parish this week.

When he hired me as Youth Director and DRE way back in 2007, I was only a year or so out of college; he hired me even though I had no real qualifications; he just wanted an orthodox Catholic young man who seemed like he'd be good with youth, and he took a chance.

It was as DRE that I started this blog. Fr. Gerald and I came into conflict about it more than once; he often times took me aside and reprimanded me for things I wrote here - but all the same, he never sought to stifle my opinion; he could have easily told me that as his DRE and a representative of the parish, he just didn't want me blogging at all. In fact I almost expected that monthly, every time he would call me into the church or his office to cross examine me on this or that matter. But he didn't. He would express his disagreement, we would argue a bit, and then he would go out of his way to make sure I knew it was okay to keep blogging. I was always grateful for this.

Not that Fr. Gerald was hostile to tradition; at the time Summorum Pontificum hit, he was training with the Canons of St. John Cantius in hopes of obtaining the celebret under the indult. As soon as the motu proprio came out, he started preparing to celebrate. It took him awhile, but our parish began offering its first Traditional Latin Masses in 2009. Since then Fr. Gerald faithfully said the TLM on the first Sunday of every month and very frequently offered other things as well; he would say the entire Pentecost Octave (which does not exist in the new rite), and always performed baptisms in the traditional rite upon request - my own son was baptized in the traditional rite.

As an employee, I often butted heads with him. But he was generally just and quick to apologize if he felt - rightly or wrongly - that he had offended me. And the man worked incessantly. He was the sort of priest who literally had to be forced to take a vacation because he was so immersed in his duties. It sometimes happened he would announce he was "taking a vacation", but us employees knew he was really in the rectory working all week. He was relentlessly devoted to his ministry. He always took the worst hours for Adoration - the 3:00 AM shifts. He prayed for his parishioners relentlessly.

After I quit working for the parish in 2010 I continued to see Fr. Gerald regularly; I continued to attend the parish and I worked there a few days a week at the local homeschool co-op. We continued to have cordial interactions over the years. My experience of Fr. Gerald was that he was a very decent diocesan priest - saying the Novus Ordo reverently, with Latin, chant, and ad orientem, but also saying the TLM, preaching traditional Catholic morality, encouraging frequent confession and Eucharistic adoration and devotion to Our Lady. He was not perfect or a saint by any means; he had his faults and quirks. He was painfully human. But he did a good job, and the fruits of sanctity were evident in the people he nourished through his ministry, imperfect though it was.

Earlier this summer, Fr. Gerald made an announcement that came very unexpectedly. He told us that he was leaving his ministry in the Diocese to go work with  Christian refugees in the Middle East. He had been personally invited by the Christian community there and agreed to a three year mission.

Throughout 2015, as ISIS continued taking territory in Iraq and Syria and horrifying the world with its brutality, Fr. Gerald had frequently preached against the indifference of the Christian west and the United States to the systematic de-Christianization of the middle east. He had a very strong burden in his heart for the forgotten Christians of the region. Earlier in the year - without telling the parish - he used one of his vacations to visit a war-torn region of the Middle East. He was told that no priests from the west had come to help. That the spiritual needs of the Christian refugees were going unmet. He was personally asked him to return.

And so he agreed, making the announcement to us earlier this summer. We were all tremendously proud of him; we have all been going on and on about what's going on in the Middle East and "Where is the west?" Even our own Pontiff has been somewhat disappointing in his support of mideast Christians. But when Fr. Gerald received the invitation, his priestly response was, "These people need me; how can I say no?"

Fr. Gerald will spend the next three years working with Christian refugees. He is not in ISIS controlled territory, but he is still in a region where there is unrest and could be trouble - hence the vagueness of the details in this post.

So long, Father. Please pray for Fr. Gerald and his work. And pray for our parish. Our new priest will not arrive until November; we are told he says the Traditional Latin Mass, so this is good. To our bishop's credit, he wanted to send a priest who would carry on the work Fr. Gerald had begun, so we are all relatively optimistic. But in the meantime we are getting visiting priests every week.

I didn't always get along with Fr. Gerald, and I have mixed feelings about him in various respects; but when it came down to it, he is doing what a priest is supposed to be doing - putting himself at the service of Christ's flock where it is most desperately needed. I am very proud of him. God bless him, and may God return him home safely.


Konstantin said...

Phil, do you think it's okay to expose Fr. Gerald's faults like that? He would look much better if you only wrote that he was going to Iraq.

Boniface said...

What are you talking about? I didn't expose any fault. I merely said we butted heads sometimes and that he was a human being with his own eccentricities and faults - I didn't say what any of them were.

Konstantin said...

Indeed, you didn't point to any specific faults, but I think it's damaging his reputation (without any necessity) when you write: "He was painfully human" or "[...] he nourished through his ministry, imperfect though it was."

Boniface said...

Meh. To say the man wasn't a saint is no calumny. Besides he said all these things himself publicly before he left. He would agree with me if he read this. His ministry was not perfect. He was painfully human. That's life. That's priesthood and Father G would not contest it. But thank you for your concern for his reputation.

nancyv said...

Could be wrong, but reading between the lines, I think you loved this priest on a deeper level than you wanted to express. Felt the same way about our former pastor who "left us" to be the Diocesan Vocations Director. I miss him and am grateful for every word exchanged between us, whether in chastisement or edification. He showed mercy with truth.
What a fine tribute to Fr. Gerald. I will add him to my list of holy priests prayed for daily.

Boniface said...

I definitely loved him even if we didn't always agree. He was like me - a man doing the best he could working out his own issues and his own salvation.

Anonymous said...

13 semicolons in a 959-word article. One semicolon for every 74 words. Zero colons. 39 commas, meaning the number semicolons equals one third of the number of commas. Wait! Let's try writing this another way:

"13 semicolons in a 959-word article; one semicolon for every 74 words; zero colons. 39 commas; meaning the number semicolons equals one third of the number of commas."

Boniface? More like Bonisemicolon. I'm being facetious but it did catch my eye.

All the best to Fr. Gerald.

plinthos said...

Family is like that.

plinthos said...

Never heard of a Summorum Pontificum "indult" or "celebret".
Summorum Pontificum clarified that the 1962 Rites were never (and could never be) abrogated and that, therefore, all Latin Rite priests, in virtue of their ordination, have a right to use them, without permission from anyone.

Boniface said...

This was before Summorum, under the indult.

christine said...

I went to a conference this spring here in NYC. It was titled "Religious Freedom Int'l Congress" sponsored by CitizenGo and focused on the ME, Sudan, Nigeria. It was all about Christians being persecuted in Aleppo, Erbil, Syria, Asia Bibi's family spoke, Kayla Mueller's parents spoke. It was chilling-the extent of the atrocities - and no response from the West! It is outrageous. And now this mass immigration of Muslims! and no Christians...
Some of the parishes in these awful places showed their faith- like that of the early Christians - in a way we can hardly understand. They can die, be killed, tortured, taken into slavery, be asked to convert, deny Jesus Christ- at any moment. They have a joy in the midst of fear, hunger, danger that only comes from life in Christ. They did express great sorrow at being forgotten by the rest of the world, especially Christians in the West.
I applaud your parish priest. I hope you & your parish have some way of supporting him either materially or in prayer, or by bringing attention to this genocide taking place. God bless him, and God bless all of us. We are next.

Boniface said...

Hey Christine!

Yes we have all signed up for an hour slot throughout the week so someone in the parish is praying for him every single hour of every single day

Unknown said...

He sounds like an amazing person. If he is interested in keeping the outside world informed of his new adventure, perhaps he can let people know how to contact him?

Anonymous said...

I personally wish every priest ordained after April 1969 had the choice to be ordained in the traditional rite by a Bishop with traditional ordination-consecration holy orders.
Please understand I'm not arguing nor am I insulting anyone.

Anonymous said...

That may be dangerous as ISIS & other Islamic terrorists are actively killing Catholics & Orthodox.
He may want to keep a low profile.I hope this man is kept safe & alive.