We have a new priest at St. Catherine's. His name is Fr. Plante and he seems like a good guy. That isn't really all that remarkable. What has been remarkable for me, as a new Catholic, is the way that the new priest was installed.
In my old Episcopal Church, when the priest retired, it was nearly a two year process to replace him. There was a 'self study' conducted that took months. Surveys, meetings, ongoing conversations. An interim priest was assigned (two actually) to shephard the congregation through the process. A hiring committee spend months gathering resumes, conducting interviews, talking to references. Finally, a team flew all the way to Paris to listen to the final candidate preach.
In my Catholic parish, it went like this:
My priest asked the Bishop's permission to retire. The Bishop assigned a new priest to the parish. On the day after my priest's retirement, the new guy was saying Mass. That's it.
Here's the amazing thing: This process, for the most part, works just fine. Yesterday was the first Sunday for the new priest. I sat in the pew and felt such a sense of love and welcome. The folks in the pews were a little excited and nervous. We are, understandably, a bit concerned about how this new priest will work out, especially since he is going to be pastoring two parishes now. But the overall sense was one of warmth and expectation. Love and encouragement. We want to love this guy.
I was very moved, to be honest. Here, in action, there was a sense of trust in God. There was the implicit belief that God has brought this new priest to us and we are going to have open hearts and open minds. There is a humilty in that. There is grace in that.
It made me grateful to be a Catholic.