Love and responsibility often get ignited by a new calling. The call to marriage or to the priesthood, for example, brings about a new movement of grace and love in the heart. Such a movement also happens when one becomes a mother or father. I tell couples in Marriage Preparation that when they have their first child they will discover that some part of their heart, which up until this point has been dormant, will be activated. That is because the love parents have for their child is so incredibly unique.
Although I am a priest, I had something like this happen to me when I became the pastor of St. Mary and St. Mark parishes in Holley and Kendall in 2010. When I said yes to that appointment, I immediately felt a deep personal responsibility for each person in my new parishes. I also felt a new concern and movement in my heart, even though I had not yet met any of them. I was impelled by that new movement to strive to lay down my life for them.
Shortly after I arrived we faced some extraordinary difficulties; huge challenges really. But, with goodness and faith - and by acting with the utmost integrity - we built our parish up again. We didn't build a perfect parish, but we sure had a good thing going, and it was a beautiful, amazing experience for us. This past April, when the time came for me to leave my beloved parishes and take up new responsibilities as the vicar general of our diocese, it was so painful to leave. I realized then how much goodness existed between all of us as many tears were shed - both theirs and mine.
At my last Mass I told them how God activated within my heart a deep and profound love for them from the moment I said yes to becoming their pastor. Further, I explained that I was now asking God to give me the same depth of priestly love and concern for every member of our diocese. That's because as the vicar general and moderator of the curia of our diocese, I now have a profound responsibility towards each of you. I am not your pastor, of course, but my service in the Church is now for each Catholic in Western New York. I pray for you at every Mass, in my daily rosary, and in all my prayers.
I know we have been in the midst of incredibly difficult times. Many people have suffered in ways that words cannot express because of the failures of individuals in the Church and of the Church as a whole. Indeed, all of us are hurt. Yet devastating sorrows are often accompanied by a new calling from the Lord. Personally, I feel that now is a time for all of us to be at our very best. A time to live with the utmost integrity in everything we do. Now is a time to hear the call to live and to move in a new way. We have the gift of being able to live the full truth of our faith with a new vigor. Whenever disciples do that, they find themselves coming closer to the Lord, and others around them being converted. The only way to renew the life of the Church is through conversion. And the way to create the soil for conversion is the restoration of our integrity and credibility.
I hope and pray that we will all experience anew the movement of grace in our hearts in this time. For in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, all things are made new!