No doubt, many people are experiencing deep frustration with the All Things New pastoral planning process. The human heart grieves when a community is disrupted. Parish changes alter the community that you have loved and nourished for many years.
You are right in feeling that there is no neutral choice. On the one hand, it is possible — and even easy — to fall into the pattern of fault-finding with the process; it provides an outlet for our interior pain. You may choose to grow embittered at those making decisions. The nebulous “archdiocese” is at fault. But fault-finding will not bring healing, and it will only add the pain of bitterness to the pain of grief.
On the other hand, you can strive to once more get in touch with the deeper desire for communion that lies beneath your frustration. Go to the nearest tabernacle and speak to Jesus about this grief. Perhaps journal about it as well — what are your thoughts, feelings and frustrated desires? Then spend time listening.
Jesus may inspire you to give clear feedback that will impact the course of action. He may show you that one option you had dismissed may be a step in the right direction. I can guarantee that it is only through Jesus that you will receive the grace to speak in such a way that will lead the archdiocese, and your parish, to a plan that will work for the betterment of all.
St. John Henry Newman wrote a poem, “Lead Kindly Light,” that I often go back to when it feels like life is spiraling out of control. Here is the most poignant line: “I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step [is] enough for me.” Take the next right step. When you feel the pain of grief, listen for His reassurance — this is not your fault, the process is not being undertaken through malice and there is hope that new friendships will form as your community comes together with another. Jesus moves us from speaking from the darkness of our fears to speaking from the deeper desires for loving communion, which is the true nature of the Church. Then, among your family and friends, you will be equipped to speak constructively to foster the life of the Church that you have loved and served dearly for so long.
Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.