Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Luke's Lenten Parish Retreat - March 13, 2010

Perhaps the most important week in the year, besides Holy Week, is the parish retreat or mission. Parishes offer a wide variety of activities that bring people together. We have pasta dinners, picnics, dances, trip sand other assorted events. But the most important events are the ones that foster spiritual growth. This year Father Peter Andrews, the pastor of St. Christopher and St. Theresa parishes in Tiverton, is our mission giver. He comes to use with a wealth of experience in offering retreats and workshops. For several years he was the liturgy director for the Diocese. Fr. Peter was ordained in 1988 and has served the Diocese well wherever he has been placed.

His theme will be the words heard on Ash Wednesday, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel." Monday night his talk will be in the context of a prayer service. On Tuesday he will speak on the theme of reconciliation and the Sacrament of Penance will be offered. On Wednesday he will talk about the gift of the Eucharist in the context of the Mass.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and people will come to have their faith renewed. Please pray that God's wise spirit will guide Fr. Peter in his reflection.

Fr. Bob

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Two dimensions of leadership - March 7, 2010

As I conclude these reflections on the priest I now focus on the leadership role of the pastor. Here perhaps I need to ask for your patience because I am no Alan Greenspan when it comes to finances or Mother Teresa when it comes to spirituality or Billy Graham when it comes to preaching. Yet a modern parish does demand a great variety of skills from its leader. Funds need to be raised, facilities to be maintained, classes to be taught, service projects to be organized, supplies to be purchased. Thank God St. Luke’s doesn’t ask me to do all these tasks. However, it does expect me to elicit the gifts from this congregation. I need somehow to marshal the talents present here and move St. Luke’s toward accomplishing its mission. Of all the qualities of an effective leader communication is right there at the top. You need to stand with the people and experience together the glories and tragedies of life. Together we experience mercy, pain, loss, disappointment, success and all other dimensions of the human drama.

The second dimension of the leader is to be attentive to the whole and not just to the individual parts that make up a parish. Like any community, a parish represents people with disparate interests. It is the role of the leader to remind people they belong to something bigger than themselves. A leader is called to create forums of all sorts where competing ideas can be brought together. At times the ideas are clear; other times there can be a cacophony of opinions and strategies. A further need is to know how to delegate tasks to others. Leadership needs to be shared if it is to be effective. It is the insecure leader who cannot let go. Part of leadership is vulnerability which allows him not to be in control of every situation. Edwin Friedman captures what is required of the leader’s “non-anxious presence.” This allows the leader to be engaged in the life and tensions of the community. As a leader I am confident in people’s abilities to be mature adults. Constructive solutions and strategies can emerge from our relationship together. God’s good spirit is in our midst and will lead us in ways that foster peace. I welcome any feedback to these reflections.

Fr. Bob Hawkins

Consulting trained counselors and spiritual directors - Feb 28, 2010

In this third segment I will reflect on the priest as providing guidance to individuals in their lives of Faith. After 9/11 I had numerous conversations with people trying to understand where God might be found in this horrible event. Similar conversations happen during times of illness, job loss, grief, divorce and other family issues. It is always my fear that all I will have to offer is pious platitudes or some theological gibberish. Pat answers are inadequate as people are expressing their deepest thoughts and feelings about life’s difficult issues. Listening to and discerning the movement of the spirit is a struggle. Often times the priest needs to refer people to trained professionals who have more expertise than he possesses. Yet in making these referrals he does not abandon the individual.

Over the years I have found it helpful to consult with trained counselors and spiritual directors. I do not heal alone or minister alone. So many times a fellow priest or a counselor has given me valuable insights into the affairs of the heart. Often times I am asked to refer them to retreat centers, monasteries, spiritual directors. Knowing local resources is an important part of a priest’s ministry.
Fr. Bob Hawkins