Dear Parish Family,
As I write this, I am up north at Boyne Highlands for the annual Diocese of Lansing Presbyteral Convocation. “Presbyter” is just another term for priest. Every year, our bishop and the priests of the diocese gather for several days in autumn for 1) continual formation, 2) diocesan business, 3) fellowship, and of course 4) prayer.
The theme this year for our four sessions of ongoing education is “Reconciliation, Exorcism and Deliverance.” Christ already has won the victory over evil and death, yet that victory will unfold until the end of time and needs to be appropriated into individual lives. So, we learned how to better celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and minister to certain spiritual challenges. Among them, we do not talk much about evil spirits and the havoc they cause in people’s lives, but they certainly are real and active. While a number of those in the psychological sciences dismiss their reality, they neglect to realize that we ourselves are not just material beings, but spiritual ones as well. These two dimensions of our lives, the spiritual and material, naturally interact and affect each other. Dismissing one or the other is not a healthy and integrated approach to our well-being.
The media industry likes to sensationalize supernatural phenomena, featuring everything from shows about ghosts and other paranormal activity to movies about exorcisms, vampires, witches and zombies. The real work of evil spirits, however, is often very subtle. Our two top-notch presenters in the field, Fr. Dennis McManus of Georgetown University and Fr. Jeffrey Grob of the Archdiocese of Chicago, have had extensive experience and advised us in how to deal prudently with evil spirits. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself spiritually is the regular and devout practice of the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As for the other activities at the convocation, diocesan business includes the annual bishop’s address, discussion on upcoming opportunities and challenges, elections for the presbyteral council and other committees, reports from diocesan personnel such as the C.F.O., Director of Human Resources, Legal Counsel and Chief of Staff. Our fraternal time together includes celebrating all priests who are jubilarians, that is, those who are celebrating milestone anniversaries of their priesthood (25th, 40th, and every decade thereafter). There is also an ice cream social, a golf outing, and activities for non-golfers. Finally, prayer includes the Liturgy of the Hours, a penance service, and of course the daily celebration of the Eucharist, one of which is a Mass for our deceased priests.
All in all, the annual convocation is a great time to “sharpen the saw” and focus on the bigger picture, to be reinvigorated in our vocation, to reunite with brother priests that we haven’t seen all year, and to exchange best practices. In the end, it helps me be a better pastor for you.
Yours in Christ,