Pastor’s Desk ~ May 26, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

This week, Fr. Stuart is announcing his move from St. Vincent’s to St. Apollinaris Parish in Napa. No one will miss him as much as I will. In this diocese, while pastors are important in their own way, there is no more valued servant of the People of God than a talented and dedicated associate pastor (or, as they are now called, “parochial vicar”). They are worth their weight in diamonds.

While I know Fr. Stuart is looking forward to the challenge of a new parish and pastor, this move is not without its sadness for the rest of us. Fr. Stuart has been a valued member and leader at St. Vincent’s. I am especially grateful for his dedication to our schools and our RCIA program, as well as his willingness to help in any way.

His transfer does not surprise anyone familiar with typical practice regarding the assignment of young priests. The current practice is to give a newly-ordained priest two or three relatively short assignments before making him a pastor in his own right. In the diocese today, there is not a shortage of priests so much as there is a shortage of pastors capable of leading large, complex parishes, especially those with a school. Fr. Stuart has already been informed that this new assignment will likely be his last as an associate, before becoming a pastor. It’s a steep learning curve, now done in two languages.

In July, I will begin my eighth year as your pastor here. During that time, we have had four associates, and soon will welcome a fifth. While it’s often hard to say “good bye,” it may be worthwhile to look at this feature of Church life with the eyes of a young priest – which Fr. Stuart is and Father-Elect Christopher Girolo will soon be.

In less than a week Fr.-Elect Christopher will be ordained a priest. At a key moment in the ceremony, he will kneel before the bishop as all priests have done, place his hands in the bishop’s, and answer the question: “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” Implicit in that life-long promise is the willingness to serve the Church as she needs to be served, whether or not the time or circumstances are right for us. This alone is a powerful promise to make in an age which exalts flexibility and choice over all other values.

On the theme of service, on Monday, May 27, we celebrate Memorial Day, to remember those who have fallen in the service of our country. I will be offering a special Memorial Day Mass at 10:00 a.m. in the mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery, Petaluma.

Fr. Bill Donahue

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