Ever had something happen to you unexpectedly that disrupted your life? Have you ever felt cheated, or have something or someone taken away from you without any warning? What do you do when you are not in control and life treats you unfairly?
I’m guessing many of you can relate to an event or another that describes what I have just stated above. I know I have... and just lately.
On November 12, an announcement from Rome coming from Pope Francis stated that I had just been appointed as the new Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie. This startling news spread like a wild prairie fire and left many of the Catholics in the area in disbelief, with consternation and seeking answers. I felt the very same way when I was first informed personally a few weeks beforehand. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me so soon because I felt three years as a new bishop was a very short time of experience. I had so much to do yet. I had a pastoral plan in play. I was getting to know the people. Why move me now?
But what worried me the most was the disruptive change this would inflict upon the people I serve. I sensed that this was not fair for them and started to feel helpless. I couldn’t warn them or prepare them as they were becoming a flock without a shepherd once again in such a short span of time. All kinds of questions came up in regards to the future of the diocese.
So what are we to do in such a situation? How are we to respond? Where do we find answers to our many questions? My first advice is to talk about it with someone you trust in order to deal with the emotions. Secondly, as a person of faith and of the Church, bring these questions to God in prayer so that He can provide light and understanding, patience and perseverance, hope and charity.
My personal experience of life and ministry has taught me that God’s ways (which we try to understand and follow as best we can) are filled with mystery and surprises, of challenges and great joys. Every time we think we have well understood the situation, and that we have gained a certain level of comfort and that God will not ask us anything more, that’s when his call is heard once more and that our response needs to be just as sincere.
God’s plans are not always our plans and I know that remaining faithful to God has always lead me to new life, even though it wasn’t always easy, but to a fulfilling new life that required me to allow God to stretch me. This new challenge placed before us all can scare us, discourage us, or instead, instill within us renewed faith and confidence. I have chosen to move forward with the belief that God, in his Providence, will make of this change an important step for a plan He has set in motion. I can only invite you to do likewise. Pray every day that God’s will be done and that you may be one with God’s will.
I conclude with words of gratitude. You have been for me, in three short years, a welcoming Church that has become my home. You have taught me how to become a bishop. Thank you for your patience and openness. I will cherish your friendliness and your great sense of generosity. Farewell and blessings to you all.