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The reassignment of a popular priest at her parish led Amanda Woodiel to contemplate the challenges of accepting what God wants.

Our associate pastor came to us two years ago. Fresh out of seminary, he had the joie de vivre of a schoolboy combined with the deep faith of an older man. From the beginning, he insisted on learning every single parishioner’s name and was so insistent on this point that he would call me (and others, I’m sure) on the phone to ask the name of the person I was talking to after Mass or even of my friends’ children.  

He went to each classroom in the school and learned all of those names as well. To each little boy and girl he would say with utter sincerity, “Paul, I am your father” or “Lucia, I am your father.” Though I’m old enough to be his mother, this impressed itself on my soul. He is my father.  

About six months into his assignment at our parish, an elderly friend of mine told me, “You know that little priest we have?” (She called him this not because he is especially small but because our pastor is 6’5”.) “He looks like Jesus to me.” This made me laugh both because it was canny and because she said it with the certainty of someone who had seen Jesus physically in person. He looked like Jesus to a lot of us.   

I am part of the Seven Sisters group, a group of seven women who commit to collectively pray a Holy Hour each day for a priest. We prayed for this priest, and my day was Friday. While in prayer, this thought came to me regarding him, “He brought the people to Jesus and Jesus to the people.”  




He wasn’t afraid of saying hard things, either. One day when he found me in the church praying, I told him that we were worried Jack (our teenage son) had cancer. He said a few things I don’t remember, but then he added, “Whatever God wills, right?” It was like gasoline down the throat. No! I wanted to scream. Not whatever God wills! But he was right. I didn’t like what he said, but I loved him for saying it, for calling me back to obedience and faith.  

The month of May, in our diocese at least, brings some restlessness among us, the sheep. It is the time when new pastoral assignments are announced. We titter amongst ourselves, wondering which of our priests will be reassigned, if any. Our parish in particular seems to have had a rough spell of turnover, having at least seven different pastors and associate pastors in the past decade. He’s leaving, we conjectured.  

We were right. He’s headed to another parish where he will be the pastor. It’s the natural order of progression. But he’s going where we cannot follow. 


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I didn’t like what he said, but I loved him for saying it, for calling me back to obedience and faith. #CatholicMom



It reminds me of the Ascension, which we recently celebrated. Each time I pray the mystery of the Ascension in the Rosary, it’s the one that is hardest for me to enter into joyfully. It is a Glorious Mystery, but to me it always feels like a sorrowful one. I know that Jesus must leave so that we can receive the Spirit, and thereby receive Jesus more intimately and fully. But in that moment, it feels like loss. I suppose this is because my love is not purified enough yet to love truly: to will the good of the other. I still look at myself and my ascending Savior (or my reassigned spiritual father) and wail: Don’t go! What about us? 

If God, in His wisdom, has reassigned this pastor, it’s because He is clearing the way for something better at our parish, something we need more. His Spirit will come to us via another of his laborers, and we will be more roundly formed, more robustly ready for the day when we will meet Him. I know our current associate pastor, the one leaving, would be the first to remind me: whatever God wills, right? 



Copyright 2023 Amanda Woodiel
Images:  Canva