In August 2015, I retired as pastor of Plain City St. Joseph Church. In September 2017, I unretired. A friend suggested it sounded like I “re-fired.” I like the idea that there still is a lot of fire left in me.
At age 71 and after 40 years as a priest, it seemed like time to retire. I decided I would step down from parish duties, but keep some of the other ministries I was engaged in – namely, the Ohio Reformatory for Women; Columbus Bishop Ready High School; Courage, for people with same-sex attraction; EnCourage, for their loved ones; and Retrouvaille, for couples in troubled marriages. What prompted the change?
At age 27, while on a retreat, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and said, “Thank you, God. If I can ever do anything for you, just ask.” He asked for one little favor – that I consider being a priest. Four years in seminary and 40 years of being a priest were filled with other moments and little favors. When God asks, how can you say “No”?
When I decided to retire, I told God about my plans and he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest. But would you consider one little favor?” When God asks, how can you say “No”? That favor was to visit Food for the Poor. When I went down and saw what they were doing, my heart broke. When your heart opens, God rushes in. For two years, I’ve been traveling on behalf of Food for the Poor and continuing my weekday ministries. I did add Franklin Medical Center to the prison ministry. Food for the Poor always will be part of my ministry.
In July, I told God the one thing I missed most was parish life. Eighteen years at Plain City St. Joseph had spoiled me. God asked for one more favor – that I go see the bishop. Now I am priest moderator at Columbus St. Aloysius Church on the Hilltop, where I went to grade school and learned to serve Mass. I will be helping at Riverside and University hospitals as chaplain. I feel the same excitement as when I first began to serve the Lord.
Why did I “re-fire”? God is good and I am addicted to Him. I am sure he will have a few other small favors in the future. Saying “Yes” to God opens up more excitement that I can imagine. Why wouldn’t I “re-fire”? Shouldn’t we all?
This article first appeared in the Catholic Times, September 24, 2017.