Transition and Priestly Ministry as a Diocesan Priest
By Fr. David Veit
The diocesan priest is intimately tied to and ordained for service in his diocese. Both “Sacraments of Service” (the other being marriage) are about sacrificial service in the name of Christ. Of course, sacrificial service means that there is, in fact, a “Sacrifice” offered in love and free will.
At ordination the priest offers his promise of respect and obedience to the bishop. This promise assures that both priest and bishop will work hand in hand to build the kingdom of God. As a symbol of this obedience, the ordinand places his folded hands inside the folded hands of the Bishop. This is further ritualized by prostrating himself during the Litany of Saints. This is a very powerful moment as this man hands his life over to God in total abandon.
At the Preparation of the Gifts, the prepared chalice and paten are handed ritually to the ordinand, with the bishop praying, “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to Him. Know what you are doing, imitate the mystery you celebrate, model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” The Bishop exhorts the new priest to live the mystery of the Eucharist in his own life, giving his life as Jesus did for the eternal life of the faithful.
Therefore, priest does no job hunting, nor “ladder climbing,” nor choosing, nor vying for his own appointments. Rather, according to the needs of the Diocese and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Bishop appoints his priests as “conscientious fellow co-workers” to provide the most effective pastoral care of the faithful. While this is a sacrifice it is also beautiful to know that these transitions are not born out of any self-centered motivation but rather rooted in faith and service in the name of (and in the person of) Jesus. I often think of Mark 1:38 and Luke 4:43. So, standing firmly on the rock of our faith, this transition finds me, “going on to another town,” and Fr. Cesar coming to you, all under the direction of our Bishop. As we celebrate Christ’s Ascension anew may it strengthen and encourage us to stay focused on Him, that our sacrifices may bear much fruit and give Glory to God.