By Fr. Rich, O.P.
I have a couple of thoughts about departures.
1) It is the nature of Dominican life to be itinerant. Blessed Father Dominic inculcated that character into our charism. It encourages us to live in a detached way, detached from possessions and places and, occasionally, even from experiences. It requires a great deal of energy sometimes and is a challenge always. It also helps us to live simply, focused on the mission — To preach, To bless, To praise!
2) As ministers and shepherds, we are called to fall in love with the people of God. We are called to minister and shepherd and then, as a cost of doing business with that same God, we are called to break our hearts and theirs when we called to leave. There is a lot of “calling.” God does call us; we are expected to respond, but in a particular way as a religious.
There is a third element in this story; it concerns the vow of obedience. In our province, we voice the vow for short terms twice. If we are called to a third opportunity, it becomes a solemn vow for life. The vow, the only one that we actually voice, is professed to “God, to blessed Mary, to blessed Dominic, and to the Master of the Order.” Our provincial is included in our commitment. It is a vow I take very seriously. It is a vow not always easy to keep. However peace and support can be found in one of the responses in the vows’ ritual, “with God’s help and yours” (referring to my brothers).
As my sixth year began at St. Thomas More, I was fairly certain that I would be given a new assignment, perhaps a fourth Newman Center. However, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, as discerned by our assembled brothers, the Provincial chapter, and the Council, wrote a different ending. After 15 years serving three university campuses, my trust in the Holy Spirit and my vow of obedience allowed for only one response, and so I will be ministering to the people of God at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Madison, Wisconsin. God is a gracious God and the parish has a school, attended by 500 children. It will be a joy and a challenge to keep up, and I am looking forward to trying.
My tenure at Newman has been blest by much joy, many challenges, much fun, and great growth to my spirit. Did I mention much joy? The friendships that have grown over my time here have been a source of strength and energy, of challenge and support. And Joy, did I mention joy? Thankfully, these blessings are easy to pack and take with me, unlike the books (which take up more room but are far less important).
I am aware that I’ve been a disappointment for some; I ask their forgiveness and apologize for my failures. They also have been an opportunity for growth.
Newman is a special place. It is home to the energy of our students mixed with the wisdom, strength, and support of our residents. It is home to a commitment to prayer, ministry, community, and study. These qualities shine beyond the physical presence of Newman out to Mizzou and Columbia. I will pack up, take with me, and draw from these attributes in the years to come.
Thank you for the gift that each of you has been to me, each a blessing in your own unique ways. You have contributed to my ongoing formation as a priest and as a Dominican. And “thank you” does not really suffice for the depth of my gratitude, but language is sadly limiting.
I would ask that you pray for me in my new endeavor. Prayer is a constant in my life, as it should be in all our lives. The ongoing conversation with God is a source of strength and wisdom, an opportunity for discernment of God’s will for us. This community will remain a part of my prayer life as it has been the case for the last six years.
Be bold in your mission; be gentle in your relationships; and be kind in your thoughts of me.
May almighty God bless each of you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Go in peace and have a wonderful life.
Let the Church say — AMEN!