Wow! I have not posted since May 21, my 40th anniversary. I am not a faithful logger. But I knew that when I started out here. I find little to help me grow in the blogs that I have briefly read. It is difficult to motivate myself to write.
Since last writing, I have had two relatively good months physically. I have had the opportunity to celebrate 40th anniversaries both at Saint Thomas Aquinas (Ames) and Saint Patrick (Cedar Falls). Both were marvelous, life-giving and energy providing opportunities for me to greet many that I have not seen for years, especially at STA. I appreciate the efforts so many made to attend, especially those who came from a distance. If you want to check out some photos, click on this link: http://evs40thsaintpatrick.shutterfly.com/
I attended a 3 day family reunion (my siblings and in-laws). I also attend the gathering of the ordination class of 1971 for the state of Iowa. This past Sunday about half of my high school graduation class came to Cedar Falls for Mass, brunch and an afternoon of visiting.
For my 25th, I reflected on my experience of priestly ministry. As Providence would have it, for my 40th, the tables were turned and people wrote me and told me of their experience of me as a priest. This has been very affirming, and somewhat enlightening to me. I share their summarized reflections with you. I do so as an invitation for YOU, to look at your life of discipleship and examine what observations others might make about you.
The most frequently mentioned quality was “JOY”. I have been experienced as a person of joy and happiness, especially in the Liturgy. People associate this experience with their faith in a God who cares and loves them, even in their weakness. This quality has provided many with hope in difficult times, and helped them to address difficult issues. My optimism, rooted in my own relationship with a compassionate and loving God, has served many in growing in their own faith. I have long been aware of my almost Pollyannaish optimism, but was not aware of the impact it had in the lives of others.
“YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING” was the next most frequently mentioned characteristic. Many, especially younger people, wrote it “you are the first priest I knew who was human”. If a priest is to be the face/hands/heart of the Lord, in you I first experience the humanity of Jesus. This prompted many to seek to more like Christ – a human person with emotions, and a capacity to love and be hurt. Who would have known, that simply by being myself; by being transparent, allowing others to know me as a person, I would, as a priest, touch so deeply the lives of others.
The third observation did not surprise me, other than it was third and not first! “LOVE of LITURGY” Liturgy has been the most important ministry in my priesthood, and I love celebrating and am deeply nourished spiritually by the liturgy. Again, my joy and love of liturgy helps others to entire more into the prayer life of the Church and to help them to grow spiritually.
Another frequently mentioned characteristic is that people experienced me as accepting, non-judgmental. Last Sunday we had the parable about “the weeds and the wheat”. One family told me that they liked my preaching because they thought I remained faithful to the scriptures and to the tradition of the Church without condemning parishioners. Rather, “you seem to invite us to conversion, to open ourselves to God’s mercy and become better.”
We live in a culture where people expect “performance reviews”. I thank all of you, who wrote and provided the ultimate performance review of my ministry. Now pray with me, that in time of my life, I remain faithful to our gospel values, our commitment to love and serving, and especially our relationship with a God who has been so incredibly gracious to us.
Rev. Everett Hemann