Carrying the Cross
I was really worried...Monsignor was announcing that he was being transferred after 34 years of ministry to our parish. It was more devastating than I imagined - the elderly, the adults, and the children crying. My thoughts raced to those in our close-knit parish that I knew had health issues--we hadn’t ordered the AED machine yet! It’s funny how you think of things like that in time of crisis. I also forgot about the Sunday School session between the liturgies. Those poor teachers had to deal with the children’s questions: “Will we go with him to his church?” “Who will marry us?” “Who will lead our retreats?” “Who will take care of our Festival?” I was bombarded by the adults: “Why is he being punished?” “Who will baptize my babies?” “Who will bury me?”
Monsignor has given his life for his flock for all of these years and has been a source of wisdom in our area. He has been a “24-hour priest” when others have taken days off or gone on vacation. Even when he has gone home to visit his mother in Lebanon, he checked on us frequently, giving instructions over the phone. His primary focus has been the children and their education. I am thankful for his long efforts in the editing and publishing of many of the Maronite formation books for our parishioners across the United States. We as a parish are inconsolable.
Monsignor said that we must remember we are in the season of Lent. He said that Christ had to carry his cross, and just like Christ, we must now carry ours in times of transition. “But, as we carry this cross, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is there to guide our path. The Holy Spirit has been guiding the church on Earth for 2,018 years. He’s not going to stop guiding us now. We just need to stay united and have faith that he will show us the way to move forward.”
When I check in with religion coordinators and pastors across our eparchy in August and September about the religious education programs, so many times they will tell me that they are in transition because the pastor has just been changed. Many parishes have no religious education classes at all for their children. This is a situation that is difficult and frightening, not only for the parents and children but their teachers and priests. It is so easy to give up when there is change, but the children of the parish still have to be educated. Priests cannot give up on their ministries. Parents cannot give up on insisting that their children be educated in their Maronite faith and traditions. And, teachers cannot give up on their mission to guide our youth in the formation of their faith.
That is why I implore you now to consider volunteering to help Fathers Vincent Farhat and George Hajj with an Intereparchial Religious Education Committee. To those who have already volunteered, God bless you. To those who are considering, hesitant, or don’t believe they are well-enough versed in our catechesis to add value, remember that Jesus told his disciples, “Do not worry about how or…what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” To continue our Maronite educational programs, rally to this cause with complete faith in the Holy Spirit. If you are able and willing to help, please email me at email@example.com and I will pass your names along to the priests.