Continued from page 1
people stirred people up right now, but we can’t just focus on one area and forget about everything else the Church is. These issues all go together and we have to work at the bigger picture.”
To that end, Father Joe points out that the Diocese of Scranton’s Bishop Joseph Bambera has been preaching a very similar message, and says it is important to note that it is not just the Pope in Rome speaking about tolerance and service, but also the local leadership. Now, however, people seem to be much more aware of the message than before. While neither Father Joe, nor Father Jerry, have noticed in increase in attendance because of the increased attention, they have been involved in an increase in dialogue –with their parishioners, with their colleagues, in social situations, and within themselves.
“It has brought about an awareness of what the Roman Catholic Church is. It is important that people realize that we are having the same conversations when we gather together as priests as the people who are in the pews. All of us have different personalities and different way of approaching an issue,” remarks Fr. Joe.
Both Father Joe and Father Gerry say that they appreciate the leadership styles each Pope has employed over their priesthood. While the day-to-day vocation of priesthood does not change, a new Pope does make his own mark on those who are committed to the Church and to leading its followers. For example, Pope John Paul II brought a greater global awareness of the Church and its teachings through his many travels during the tense period of the Cold War. Benedict XVI was considered by many a brilliant Theologian and made his mark by clarifying many Church teachings and strengthened the structure within the Church. Francis I appears to be bringing the Church back to its roots with his message of tolerance and service.
Father Jerry thinks that one of Pope Francis’ best quality is that he relates well to a many different people and that may influence those who may have walked away from the Church in disillusionment. He says that he has noticed that spark of spirit manifesting itself thought the increased willingness of people to get involved in their faith through service.
“People are asking some deep soul searching questions in terms of why they aren’t attending church. There is openness to faith and spirit happening in people’s lives where they are looking at their faith again and what they want in their life,” notes Father Jerry.
Whatever it is, something is stirring in people to do their part, even if the message has always been the same.
“We need to keep in mind the wonderful universality of the Church and how rich and all-encompassing our tradition is, rather than focus on one aspect of our faith.” adds Fr. Joe We have an opportunity to bring light to what we do and invite more people to do more of it in their lives, based on the need today.”
Not every Catholic Christian has been open to the way Francis has lead the church and that has put a new spin on an old challenge for priests in charge of administering to the faithful. It is a challenge that Father Joe finds worthwhile, however, as he recognizes that every Catholic needs something different from their faith, and that need changes throughout their lives. He says that what is appealing about Francis I to some may be unnerving or confusing for others in the same way Benedict’s interpretations were clarifying and reaffirming for some, but rigid and unpalatable for others.
“As priests and leaders of our congregation, we have the responsibility to administer to all different viewpoints and worship together. We need to accept each other where everybody is and give to each other,” explains Fr. Joe. “We need a combination of clarification and dialogue to guide us so we can get a sense of direction. These conversations wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the things the Pope has said. It makes it difficult and so wonderful all at the same time.”
This type of conflict within the congregation does not concern St. Jude’s and St. Mary’s leaders at all; rather, it is just as it should be.
“You’re always going to wrestle with something. You’re going to find comfort but you are always going to be challenged, says Fr. Joe. “
“Certain aspects of the church appeal to different people,” adds Fr. Jerry. “God works through us all in different ways and it doesn’t mean that one way is better than the other. We are always trying to bring the two together.”
For those who have found that they are thinking about the institution they have left behind, or those whose curiosity has been peaked by the new Pope, Father Joe and Jerry welcome a conversation.
“We would love for people to come out and get together to talk about what they need from the Church. That will make all the difference in the world,” says Fr. Joe. “If Pope Francis helps, that’s a great thing.”
Father Jerry agrees, but they know that the conversations people are having within themselves or with others can lead to some significant internal turmoil. After all, change is never comfortable.
“Pope Francis is a man who believes that we are called to have a relationship with Jesus, and you see that love unfold in the way he acts, which is rooted from prayer and traditions of the church. We do these things in order to change and be converted. Many people like him because of his call for change in the church, but he is calling us to do the same thing –to serve our neighbors and the world around us.”
This idea is again found in Pope Francis’ Christmas message:
“Dear brothers and sisters…” said the Pope to those who gathered in Rome on Christmas “Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us not fear this, Let us not fear that our hearts be moved…Let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God… We need his caresses…Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.”
“It is a significant step,” agrees Fr. Joe “They may have to change a part of their life and that may be scary.”
But no matter how uncomfortable the conversation that Pope Francis has started seems to get, or whether some people relish it while others shy from it, Father Joe and Father Jerry are available to help and guide when necessary –after all, that is their job.
“The key is to discern God’s will in your life and be comfortable with doing just that,” concludes Fr. Jerry.
However we get there is up to us. The Saint Jude Parish Center
is open on weekdays and can be reached at 570-474-6315. Individual appointments and groups are welcome. The Mass schedule can be found at http://stjc.org