I was informed yesterday that there are lots of conversations around the parish that I am being transferred: someone heard it from a chancery employee, someone else heard it from another priest, still someone else heard it at the beauty parlor. I will share with you what I know from inside the transfer portal with as much transparency as I can while also respecting the discreet nature of assigning priests. It is possible that I will be transferred from Saint Charles Borromeo this summer, even likely; but it is not certain. I am very happy at Saint Charles and very proud of how we have come together and rallied over the past six years to revitalize this faith community. I would love to stay and participate in further growth; in some ways, we’re just getting started in realizing our potential and celebrating tremendous realities and possibilities ahead. There is no other parish where I would rather serve as pastor now.
Having stated that, in mid-January outgoing Rockhurst University president, Father Tom Curran, SJ, contacted me and asked if I would consider taking a position there at my alma mater; the job would focus on the surrounding community, the university’s mission for faith-justice, and Catholic Social Teachings. I was intrigued but responded as I always did when someone asked me to consider a job, i.e., that I could only take a position to which the bishop assigns me. He, of course, knew that and was willing to present a proposal to our bishop, who was also intrigued by the prospect. For several months, those of us involved thought it over, discussed it, prayed about it, and considered its possibilities. The short story is that Bishop Johnston was immediately open to the prospect, especially since the post at Rockhurst can be coupled with work in nearby parishes where I could provide sacramental and administrative services. There would be a natural overlap and solid link where I might spend most of my weekdays at the college and most of my weekends at the churches.
I attended Rockhurst College between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. As much as at any other time or anywhere else in my life, I grew up there. My college experience was eye-opening and mind-expanding; I will always treasure it. I have remained close to the university ever since. As Kansas Citians know, Rockhurst has a strong desire to make a positive impact in the urban community where it sits, and our diocese wants to be an encouraging presence for Catholics and others living there. At this point, neither I, nor the university, nor the diocese, know what shape this effort would take, but we are all interested in giving it “the ole college try.” The university plans to build the Alvin Brooks Center for Faith-Justice on its campus to advance our Judeo-Christian mission of cooperating with God to bring justice in our times. In naming the site, Father Curran wanted to honor Mr. Brooks, a lifetime Kansas City humanitarian who has worked tirelessly for justice through civil service and Catholic social principles. This center will become an anchor in our urban core to remind us of justice, not in the modern American sense of getting even but, in the biblical sense of getting right—with God and with one another. In conjunction with the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph and Rockhurst, I would be honored to help advance that ministry.
If it materializes, this venture will be a great challenge and tremendous opportunity. To me, it gets at the very heart of our faith in the very heart of our city. By helping college students along with their families, neighbors, alumni, friends, and metropolitan residents put faith into action, we might all become more solidly and lovingly aligned with God’s hope for us. Though I haven’t been to college for a long time (and I might have to face some of the foibles of my younger years) it would be good to return to The Rock and accompany others in discovering a firm foundation upon which we can build up God’s kingdom.
Whether I stay or go, I feel happy and am extremely fortunate to get to stand before two such wonderfully life-giving paths for the next steps of my earthly journey. Having served as director of priest personnel, I realize that there are lots of puzzle pieces to fit, moving parts to pin down, and last-minute variables to accommodate. So, the portal is still swirling; I could get spit out or shot through. When I receive word, one way or the other, I will let you know.