Sunday, June 13, 2021
Father Jeff wrote last week that he had started writing his article several different times before he finished it, and I’m grateful for the very kind words he wrote. In a somewhat similar way, I’ve put off writing this farewell article. Usually, when Father Jeff has asked me to write the bulletin article, I come up with a topic fairly quickly and knock it out early so that I don’t forget it in the midst of everything else. But this time I’ve put it off far longer than usual, and the main reason is because this time, I don’t really know what to say.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been marking various “lasts” of my time at St. Patrick and St. Boniface (my last parish council meeting, my last Mass at the Forum, my last day in the office, my last baptism…). I’ve also found myself having to say goodbye over and over to different groups of people, and in my spare time have been packing up my room in the rectory. Between all of those things, you would think that the reality of what is happening would sink in. But in a lot of ways it hasn’t yet. I feel a little like I felt during my first Mass of Thanksgiving after my ordination, when I was in a kind of daze through the Mass up until I got to the moment of consecration. As I started to say the words over the bread, an alarm started going off in my head: “Hey, what are you doing? Only a priest can say those words! Can you be doing this?” The fact that I was a priest hadn’t really sunk in yet, and likewise the fact that I’m moving hasn’t really sunk in yet. I expect a similar realization that I’m “not in Kansas anymore, Toto” will probably hit me once I’m standing in the rectory at St. Thomas surrounded by moving boxes, or when the business manager comes into my office to ask me to approve an expense, or when I look up from the altar and see a different set of faces than the ones I have grown used to.
This experience has made me realize what I have known intellectually, but the full reality of it hadn’t hit me before now: being a priest means that every few years I may be called to turn my whole life upside down, suddenly finding myself in a different place, with different people, a different schedule, and ministering to different needs. I’m gradually coming to realize that this is one of the ways in which I am called to imitate Christ, who did not stay in one place but went from town to town proclaiming the Good News. Being in control of where I live and who I serve is one of things I gave up when I lay down on the floor of the cathedral at my ordination. I didn’t realize how hard it would be until now that I have to do it.
None of this is to say that I am not looking forward to where I am going. On the contrary, I am excited for the opportunities God will give me to minister to the people at St. Monica and St. Thomas parishes and the students at Bethlehem (“Beth-lum”) High School in Bardstown. I am looking forward to enjoying the beautiful countryside, to being in the heart of Kentucky Catholic history, and to seeing the many ways God is at work in these communities.
But that doesn’t make it easier to say goodbye. I have been blessed by your faith, your energy, your creativity and flexibility as we navigated a pandemic, and especially by your encouraging words, your notes, and your prayers over these last two years. You have helped me learn how to be a priest, and I know you will do the same for Father Quan. Most especially, I am grateful to the staff at both parishes I have had the privilege to work with, and in a particular way to Father Jeff for his wisdom, leadership, and friendship.
One of the most moving parts of my ordination was when Archbishop Kurtz, holding my hands in his, looked me in the eye and said, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to completion.” God has begun a good work in the parishes of St. Boniface and St. Patrick, in your life, and in mine. As we part ways, let us pray that he will bring it to completion.
Fr. Steven Reeves
870 Saint Thomas Lane
Bardstown, KY 40004