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Change can be exciting

It can also be scary

In the years leading to my priestly ordination, I was a frequent visitor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, which was, at the time, my home parish in our diocese. During my visits, I would often sit down with Father Charlie Irvin, who was then St. Francis’ pastor, to share a meal and conversation. Father Charlie would often inquire about how things were going in seminary and how I was feeling as I was progressing toward priestly ordination. I have always seen Father Charlie as one of my “wisdom figures” – someone from whom I can gain much insight, both spiritual and practical, as it applies to being a priest and pastor. When asked what ordained life would be like, Father Charlie would often reply, “Dwight, you are going to have the privilege of being a priest during one of the most exciting times in the life of the church.”

Eleven years into this adventure of priesthood, I continue to appreciate Father Charlie’s wisdom. In 1996, we welcomed Bishop Mengeling to our diocese. In 2003, we said goodbye to Bishop Povish. Since 2005, we have worked with Bishop Mengeling as he began a process which sought to listen to and evaluate the needs of the Catholics of our diocese in the midst of a variety of changes that continue to influence and reshape life within our parishes, our diocese and our state. Earlier this year, we welcomed Bishop Boyea and walk with him as he now shepherds the Diocese of Lansing and begins to implement the plan for parish mergers, clustering, improvement or closure which had its genesis with Bishop Mengeling. Father Charlie was right – these have been and will be exciting times. They are also filled with challenge and a little bit of uncertainty.

Whenever we encounter something new or different, there is always a mix of apprehension and excitement. We can acknowledge our apprehension because we are unable to clearly ascertain the future. We can also allow ourselves to be excited because these times also present us with a unique opportunity to help guide and reshape the lives of our parish communities in such a way that they become even more vigorous and life-giving. Times of transformation and renewal are not easy, but they can be exciting and rewarding.

As I have reflected on the changes outlined in the following pages, I can’t help but think what it must have been like to have been huddled in the Upper Room at Easter almost 2,000 years ago. There was fear and uncertainty. There was also the presence of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit. That same Spirit who helped to give birth to the church in its infancy is the same Spirit who will guide us in the years ahead, as the people and parishes of the Diocese of Lansing continue to seek to make the presence of Jesus known. And so our journey in FAITH continues.