Our parish will have a guest priest with us for the next few months. Fr. Nicholas Mishek has been living at the rectory with me the past month while he completed an evaluation process required by the Archdiocese. Fr. Nicholas is a new priest who was ordained this past June. He was initially assigned to St. Robert’s Parish in Omaha, but made some pastoral mistakes, which led to his departure. Like all of us who make mistakes, he deserves a chance to grow from the mistake and become a better more sensitive priest because of it. He is with us as he begins his return to full and active ministry in the Archdiocese.
It has been a long time (36 years) since I was newly ordained. I do remember, I joked at the time with the people in Norfolk that I had been given diapers to wear for the first year of priesthood, because I would be making so many mistakes and they did not want me to leave a big mess for others to clean up. People also needed to be patient and forgiving of newly ordained priests because often times they would be doing things for the very first time. The seminary gives us a lot of head knowledge and some practical advice, but it is in the day-to-day living out of the ministry of priesthood that we truly learn to be priests. Thanks to many loving people in the early years of my priesthood, I became a good priest. They challenged me when I needed it, congratulated me when I succeeded, cried with me when I failed badly and loved me enough to walk with me in patience to a better tomorrow. When I left Norfolk, I told the parishioners that if they heard I did well in the future, they could pat themselves on the back because they had taken the time to form me. Of course, if they heard otherwise, then I told them to pray hard that God would knock me off my horse and teach me a few things.
I am not certain how long Fr. Nicholas will be with us, but I ask you to take the time now to get to know him and help him to be the good priest he is. We are a small parish, so there is not a lot of work for Fr. Nicholas to do. He will have the time to meet with you, help you in your spiritual growth, work on parish projects and help with Masses. He will also have the time to observe how we do things here, which will help him be a good pastor in the future.
If you do have concerns about Fr. Nicholas and his ministry here, I invite you to call me and we can talk over those concerns. I am always open to hearing from you. I have gotten to know him a bit during the past month and I think you will find him to be a good man who desires to serve the people of God as well as he can.
We are all broken people. Yet Jesus welcomed all of us – sinners and saints. Here we all belong. Often, our failings help us to be the holy people God calls us to be. I know that I can be gentle with sinners because I know that I am a sinner. I can forgive others of their mistakes because I can see my own mistakes. I am not perfect. None of us are.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. The church gives us the scene at the end of the world from the Gospel of Matthew to reflect upon. The scene has three surprises in it: First, the king and judge of the world turns out to be not a worldly, military power, but the humble carpenter from Nazareth. The second surprise is that the sole criterion of judgment is how they have treated needy persons—those who are hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, ill, or imprisoned. The final surprise is that the king has taken such treatment personally.
I encourage you to meditate on that reading and honestly ask yourself how you have been doing in treating Jesus when he has appeared to you hungry, needy, a stranger, imprisoned or ill. Have you welcomed him into your life? Will you be welcomed into his?