We're about to undergo a shuffle here in the Hamilton Diocese. Not the "everyday I'm shuffling" kind of shuffle – a priest shuffle. Father Yvan, who is over in Gisborne, has been called to minister to the people of the Marquesas Islands so that has necessitated a kind of shuffle around to fill his spot, and then to fill the spot of the priest going to Gisborne, then a priest to fill that spot… you get the picture.
We will be losing our Parish Priest in this neck of the woods. As our Assistant Priest put it last week, when the Bishop calls, you have to go, but the priest always has the last word… as long as that word is "Sir, yes sir". I think he was joking.
I understand that all Diocesan priests take a vow of obediance to the Bishop and it is just part of the job that they will be shifted around from parish to parish. It's good for the parishes and it's good for the priests. But, gosh, it's hard. We are very lucky here to have a Parish Priest that is popular and very well-loved. When things are working well, our priests are the people we come to rely on for guidance, counselling, prayer, confession, support and sometimes even friendship. It's hard when they move on.
I've been through this once before when I lived in Auckland. We had an AMAZING Priest at my parish – dynamic, interesting, intelligent, compassionate and I was gutted when he was moved across town. I even thought about following him to his new parish (easy enough to do when you live in Auckland). But it was actually a wake-up call to think about why I go to Mass. Do I go to listen to the priest's awesome sermon, or do I go to celebrate the Mass and to encounter Jesus? I guess that's the same thing I will need to think about now.
This kind of situation must be hard for our priests too. They get somewhat settled in an area, they become part of people's families and certainly part of the community, but they can be asked to move at any time. If I was living priestly life I think I would be too scared to get too involved in a community and in people's lives, in case I was asked to move and it was too hard. I wonder how our priests feel about moving. Is it just part of the job or is it a hardship for them too?