Friday, October 16, 2009

So, Where Am I Now... Or, Fr. Rob's Big Move

As I mentioned in my previous post, this summer I stepped down as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Dorr, Michigan, where I had served for almost 5 years. I spent much of the summer in residence at SS. John and Bernard parish in Benton Harbor, and much of my time preparing for the next phase of my priestly ministry.

I am happy to say, that after prayer, discernment, and much consultation with my bishop(s), I am now at The Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. The University of St. Mary of the Lake is most widely known for Mundelein Seminary, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am pursuing the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL), with a concentration in Sacramental Theology and Liturgy. The program will take me two years to complete, and consists in foundational coursework in theology, as well as specialized courses in Sacramental and Liturgical Theology. The Licentiate is an advanced ecclesiastical degree, granted by a pontifical ecclesiastical faculty chartered by the Holy See. In effect, the Licentiate is more than a Master's degree, but less than the Doctorate, to which the Licentiate leads. Among other things, the Licentiate is the minimum degree required to teach theology at a Catholic seminary.

I am very grateful to be here. The process that led to me coming here began last fall in conversations with now-retired Bishop James Murray of Kalamazoo. He and I, over the years, had discussed me going back to school on several occasions, but it seemed to me that things were coming together for this now. Over the course of the winter and spring, Bishop Murray and I arrived at the conclusion that I would come to the Liturgical Institute. I am grateful for his openness to see the value my studies in this area could have for the diocese. I am also very grateful to our newly-installed bishop, Paul J. Bradley, for "seeing through" Bishop Murray's decision, and himself being very supportive of my interests and efforts in this vein. I have been impressed by Bishop Bradley's vision for the diocese and church, and for his insight into the possibilities and opportunities that my advanced training in Liturgy could open up for the benefit of our diocesan church.

I am very impressed with the program here at the Institute. The faculty are excellent, and the academic content is solid. I am also very impressed with my fellow students. They are all very accomplished people in their own right, and bring a great deal of ability, insight, and experience to our studies. As many of you may know, the Institute was founded in 2000 by Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, to provide sound training and formation in liturgy for academics as well as parish professionals. I can say from my own experience that the Institute strives to be faithful to the mind and heart of the Church, and to inculcate a true "Spirit of the Liturgy" in continuity with the whole of the Church's liturgical patrimony. The Institute has been growing in size, visibility, and prominence in recent years, and that growth is, in my opinion, entirely deserved.

As I said before, I'm truly grateful to be here. I'm already learning buckets - I cannot tell you how many times either in class or in my reading I have thought "that's something I could take back to a parish or to the diocese." I have no doubt that I will continue to learn a great deal.

I'll keep you posted on the doings here, and what I'm learning in my studies. In the meantime, pray for me, that I can truly deepen my understanding of the sacred liturgy!

So, Where Have I Been?

Sorry to have been away for so long. I've been meaning to get back to posting for a while, but have only been able to do now. I've received a number of e-mails over the last few weeks from people asking, "Where are you? And where have you been?" Well, I will answer the first question in my next post, but I'll answer the second question first.

The answer is that I've been busy! I had a busy summer: In late June I stepped down as pastor of St. Stanislaus in Dorr (why will be apparent in that next post), and spent the rest of the summer in residence at SS. John & Bernard parish in Benton Harbor. I also travelled quite a bit. I spent some time with my father in Texas. He was preparing to move from the "Hill Country" area of Texas (northwest of San Antonio), back to Wisconsin, where he lived before his retirement 7 years ago.

My Dad's House in Texas
(all photos may be viewed full-size by clicking on them)

My dad lived on a river, near a large lake, and it was really quite idyllic: lots of waterfowl, good fishing, and other wildlife. It was not at all uncommon to have deer grazing on the property, or have troops of wild turkeys around, etc. But it had become too much for him to keep up with, and the luster of the area had decreased in the last couple of years with the severe drought Texas has been experiencing. The river is reduced to a trickle, and is now unnavigable.

In the photo above, that large outcropping of rock in the foreground was completely submerged two years ago. You can see the river in the background, a tiny trickle of its former self. The effect of the drought is even more noticeable here:

The Effects of the Drought

The portion of my dad's boat launch ramp in the foreground would have been completely submerged as well. You see the dock on the right, now a high-and-dry dock. Across the "river" you can see the neighbor's dried-out boat ramp as well.

So I was down there to help my dad prepare for his move. I also visited some friends out East for a week or so.

But much of my time and energy was taken up by preparing for my big move. About that, in my next post...