One of the many good things about being a Catholic priest is this: someone else tells you what your mission is. It's good to know that the mission you are on was determined by the needs of other people rather than by your own selfish motives. Seven years ago when Bishop Campbell asked me to become Pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr I said, "yes." Recently I heard from Bishop Campbell again. I learned that he had been in touch with various religious orders, asking them to send priests to work in the Diocese of Columbus. One of them was the Missionary Servants of the Word, the same congregation whose sisters are serving at our parish, and which will soon be sending three more sisters to Christ the King. The Missionary Servants of the Word informed Bishop Campbell that they were willing to send two priests, one of whom speaks both English and Spanish. Because these priests are members of a religious community, they need to be assigned to the same place.
And this is how it comes about that two new priests will be coming to St. Stephen the Martyr at the beginning of July. That's wonderful news!
At the same time, the Bishop has asked me to take on a new mission as Pastor of St. Mary's Church in Marion, Ohio, effective July 9. St. Mary's has been without a pastor for a few months, after the previous pastor became ill with heart problems. As I did seven years ago, when the Bishop asked me to take up a mission, I said, "yes."
Looking back on seven years at St. Stephen, I am astounded and moved at how much we have been able to accomplish, with the help of God. And when I think about how much more could happen at the parish, now that it will be served by two full-time priests, I find it a very exciting prospect. St. Stephen has a very bright future.
There is no doubt that transitions of this kind are always a challenge. But I keep thinking back to something a wise layman told me many years ago: "When our leaders don't do what God is calling them to do, we all suffer."
Please pray for the two priests who will be coming to serve this parish. I know that you will welcome them and show them both affection and respect, because that is how you have treated me. And pray for the children and young people of our parish, that God inspire them to dedicate their lives to his holy service.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Fr. Thomas Buffer.