THE MORE WE GET TOGETHER, THE HAPPIER WE’LL BE
114 priests of the diocese are meeting in convocation at the Sable Park Crown Plaza hotel in East Tampa from Monday afternoon through Thursday noon. This non-mandatory convening of the fathers is meant to provide us with some time for fraternal support, continuing education, and afternoons generally free of appointments, telephone calls, etc. It is an annual affair and something which I always enjoy. Of course, last year I was unable to be present except that I did make it for dinner with the “brothers” on Tuesday night.
Each year has a central thematic and we invite at least two and sometimes more special people to come and present to and instruct us. This year we are spending our mornings listening and thinking about new and better ways to minister as priests in a multi-cultural environment. Our major presenter is Father Alan Figuroa Deck who is currently heading the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops office for Multi-Cultural Ministry. A good sixty percent of our 76 parishes in this diocese has some presence of people not of the Anglo-Saxon culture: Hispanics, Portughese, Koreans, Polish, Lithuanian, Vietnamese, and Haitians just to mention the larger presences. I suspect that most of we priests don’t think we do a great job of evangelization to these different cultures and wish we could do more and do it better. The days will not solve the problems or eliminate the challenges, but I am looking for best practices which we or at least I can employ in reaching out to these people. In my parents’ time there were national parishes to care for these groups but these have largely disappeared.
This gathering is not mandatory but has always enjoyed good attendance. Please don’t think that bishops can mandate anything these days. I have asked every priest on faculties in the diocese to join me on November 29, 2010 when Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane and a member of the USCCB Committee on Worship speaks to us about the new translation of the Roman Missal which we will begin using in December 2011. Already seven (7) have said they cannot come. There are moments when I am surprised that all twelve apostles made it to the Last Supper but then one did leave early even from that.
This year, of course, there is baseball as a distraction but God is good and our Wednesday game has been scheduled for 1:37pm allowing a number of us, myself included, to make the game and be back for dinner and for Eucharist. Every afternoon is free to do something and they often schedule golf, tennis, and visits to places like MOSI and the Lowry Park Zoo.
Masses in the parish are mostly being covered by our senior, retired priests so we can attend the convocation and every year several leave to cover funerals, etc. My brothers are so generous and mostly committed to their ministry but the more we get together, the better we’ll be.