Each year I am given 30 days of vacation, plus my (canonically required) annual retreat, plus my annual gathering with the priests of the Archdiocese (“Priest Days”). Archbishop Sartain always emphasized to us as seminarians and new priests that we are no good to the People of God if we are burned out, so it is an act of service to our people that we always make sure to take our days off, vacations, and retreats. I agree with him and have always been careful to do so. Unfortunately, as of this Easter, I had only taken 11/30 vacation days, and the retreat I really like at Steubenville was scheduled for the week before Priest Days (the 2nd and 3rd full weeks of June, respectively), meaning that once everything got scheduled on my calendar, I was slated to be gone one weekend and all but four of my office days in June. Then I got COVID on vacation, removing me for three of those office days and another weekend. (Blessedly, my CDC-mandated isolation ended exactly in time for me to get on a plane to Steubenville, so I am writing this note in the middle of my retreat.)
I have to say, I am already ready to be back at the parish. Which is not to say that I do not love the friends I visited, or this retreat, or the upcoming Priest Days. But I became a diocesan priest because I love Jesus and I love his everyday people, his families, his individual communities of faith. Even when I am on vacation or on retreat, my heart is never apart from our parish or our people. Sometimes I resent this – it would be nice to pretend like I have no responsibilities! – but most of the time I see this as a sign of a healthy priesthood: I absolutely need to separate myself from the day-to-day and regain some perspective on what is most important in ministry, but that is always with the goal of being a better priest for our parish, and I have to pray about our parish if I want God’s perspective on it. A father does not forget his family, even if sometimes he does need to go fishing to remember how much he loves them. Anyway, please know that you are never far from my heart.
Even when Especially when I am not answering e-mails, I am still offering you to the Lord and praying that the Holy Spirit will guide our community into ever deeper faith and zeal for the Gospel.