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Father Muench Says...

The life of a priest: a bit of a vagabond

May 16, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I now live in retirement in St. Andrew’s Parish, Sackets Harbor.  I was pastor here in this parish many years ago.  Actually, this was the first parish in which I was a pastor. 

I was reminded of those days recently when a lady who was living here back then gave me a parish bulletin that she had saved from those days when I was pastor.  I guess she was rummaging through her scrap books.

This bulletin brought back a flood of memories.  Actually, this particular bulletin was my final one as St. Andrew’s pastor as I was preparing to be transferred.  So, it included a farewell letter to the people of the parish.

Reading this letter now after all of these years, is rather curious – like finding something written by another.

The farewell letter was rather short; I have become rather long winded now.  However, much of what I wrote then are ideas that continue to be true over and over again in my life as a pastor and a priest.  God has always been so good and loving to me.

I was sincerely grateful to the people of the parish. They were so good to me.  Here is what I wrote then: “How do you say thank you to the greatest people in the world?  You have taken this vagabond in and made him a part of your villages and your families.” 

Reading that now, it was curious that I chose that word – vagabond.  I wonder if my priest friends think of their years as a Catholic priest and an apostle of the Lord Jesus as being a vagabond.  Is our life as a priest a bit of being a vagabond, wandering about from place to place?

I have discovered “the greatest people in the world” in every parish.  St. Paul spoke of the people he ministered to and wrote to in his letters as “saints.”  I have no doubt that in every parish I have been pastor to a multitude of “saints.”

I added this in that bulletin letter: “it was not a job for me – this was a home and you all were part of my family.”

I am certain that I meditated often on “family” as I was making my final decision to become a priest.  As a priest and as a pastor, I quickly learned that I was to be a member of many families.  My experience as a priest has truly been a family affair.  I was there when a new child was born and entered a family. I was the one who baptized and welcomed that new child into the family of the Church.

I was part of families as their children grew up. I was there for the joyful celebrations. I was there in the difficult days and I was there during time of tragedy.  There were many happy days, like the weddings.  I was there with so many families at the time of death.  There were lots and lots of families.

The one thing that tied me to all the families and to my God – the Mass.  The joining of the parish each Sunday for Mass is always a family time with each family joining to make the parish a family.

All of us are united together to worship the Lord and seek God’s help and support for each member of the family, for each family of the parish.

So, as I read over that letter in that old bulletin I remember so much and think about how grateful I am to God for the gift of my priesthood.

This week, like many other priests in the diocese, I will remember my anniversary of my ordination as a priest.
Each time, I decided to drive across the diocese – off to visit a friend or to go to some sort of party or celebration – I still wander around some of my former parishes, visiting the Churches and remembering. 

Maybe this vocation of priesthood does have a bit of vagabond in it.

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