When your pastor is falsely accused
Our Pastor was placed on temporary administrative leave over allegations of misconduct with a minor that allegedly occured more than 30 years ago. Five weeks later, he was returned to his parish -- thanks to God -- as the allegations were investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. What a joyous celebration of the Mass we then, with standing room only!
When the announcement was made, we were all like sheep without a shepherd. I am involved in several ministries of the parish, and for the first few days, we all felt sort of lost. Father was not allowed to have any involvement in the running of the parish or anything to do with public ministry. We are a small parish and only have one other priest, who is also the Hospital Chaplain to a large hospital. Needless to say, there was only so much work the other priest could assume.
It took us a couple of days to figure out what to do. At first, we were praying of course for Father's return, but also for someone to lead us and tell us what to do. God didn't send anyone; He was telling us to do it ourselves. So all the ministries began to regroup and to carry on the work that the pastor had started. It is, after all, what God (and our pastor) would expect. We became Jesus to the rest of the parish and to each other. All the committees continued to meet and proceed with the items that were on the agenda. We believed it was imperative for the rest of the congregation to see that, while we love our pastor dearly, God's work and our faith do not depend solely on him. We kept Father advised by mail of what was going on, and major decisions were tabled until a future date.
On the pastor's return, he thanked all the ministries for continuing to hold up the parish, and He pointed out that if a pastor has done his job well, things can and should proceed in his absence. After all, we are doing God's work, not his. In the absence of our "shepherd", we were able to be Jesus to each other, to our pastor and to the rest of the parish and the surrounding community.
The entire parish also became Jesus to our pastor, with bags of cards and letters delivered to him numerous times, yellow ribbons on the trees surrounding the rectory, and prayer and support for him. This desert journey has become a strengthening thread in our parish.
© 2002 by Dee Janicke
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