As a high school administrator for about two decades, I would instruct my fellow administrators to enter the school building each day with a “new set of eyes.” I would try to do this myself as part of a morning ritual. I looked around the school and asked myself various questions: What did I observe today? Is there anything that I had become so familiar with that I almost overlooked it or took it for granted? Who was there? What were they doing? What was my overall impression? What did I see?
For the next weeks and perhaps months, I will be going through my observation ritual at the Sunday and daily Masses at Holy Angels Parish.
First, I will certainly formulate some initial impressions at the weekend Masses as I begin looking around: Do people actively participate? What are the crowds like? How is the music and singing? Are people friendly towards one another? Do people leave early? Are there many families and children? Can the priest and the readers be heard?
Similarly, I am sure that you will be observing me (and the two other new priests assigned to the parish): How long is the homily? Is it interesting? Can he sing? Is he friendly? Can I understand him? Is he reverent?
In between unpacking, becoming familiar with the staff and parishioners, checking out all the buildings and facilities, preparing for the relocation of the elementary school, and many other routine duties, I will certainly need some time to pray. It is prayer that will sustain me/us. Personally, I find that when my prayer life is in order, the rest of my life seems to flow more smoothly. Pressures will inevitably be there, but prayer helps to make things more bearable.
Do you notice how we pray for Pope Francis and Bishop Dennis Sullivan at every Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer? The many responsibilities that they hold certainly deserve a regular remembrance in our prayers. Similarly, could you remember to say a prayer or two for your new pastor and the priests/deacons of our parish on a regular basis? We need and depend on your prayers as well! Know that you will be remembered in my Masses and when I pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) each day.
As time passes, my hope is that this parish will grow in deeper holiness together with your priests. This can only happen if we pray for each other, support each other, and be willing to reach out and help each other.
I realize that some of our parishioners may be on vacation during the summer. I will also be taking some vacation time later this month as has been my custom. However, when things return to more of a routine in the Fall, I anticipate observing and learning the rhythm and personality of this parish.
In the meantime, know that I will be looking around—continually. I’ll let you know later what I see!
Fr. Ed Namiotka