Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Quadragesimo Anno

by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register

(From the July 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Mark Pautler Quadragesimo Anno, or “After 40 years” (literally, “in the 40th year”) was an encyclical of Pope Pius XI issued in 1931, 40 years after the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum novarum. These were two landmark documents of the Holy See in the development of papal teaching on social justice.

The only thing immediately shared by Pius’s Quadragesimo Anno and this column is 40. After 40 years of priesthood (now, almost 41) my life changed on June 30 of this year. I completed 12 years as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Spokane and was granted senior status, or retirement.

What does that mean? I’m going to find out.

For me, it means that I was not asked by Bishop Daly to continue on at Sacred Heart or to accept another parish assignment. In that sense, I have retired from pastoral ministry. However, as part of the deal I offered to continue my so-called “day job,” as chancellor and judicial vicar.

Now, what does that mean? That’s on a need-to-know basis: When you need to know how you are served by these offices, you will find out.

Along with my day job, I will engage in the typical pastoral services provided by senior priests: substitution for parish priests; providing Mass at other institutions without regular priestly ministry; occasional weddings, funerals or baptisms; hospital and hospice calls. This sounds a lot like what priests do or ought to be doing. And they do.

But parish priests get to do a few other things. What can be done about that dry spot on the front lawn? Is the water on the floor just condensation, or is a pipe leaking? It’s time for the pastoral council: What’s the agenda? Where are we in our pastoral plan? Do we have a pastoral plan? Why was attendance so thin last Sunday? What was the collection? Where do we stand year-to-date on income and expenses? Do we need a new staff person? Do we need a new computer or phone system or furnace? Is the lector here? (In 12 years at Sacred Heart, lectors had nearly perfect attendance; but I can’t say the same for the altar servers). It snowed last night. Better get over and shovel the walk for the morning Mass crowd, of six. “No, Father, I didn’t say ‘there was egg on your face.’ I said there was egg on the front door.” (We were fortunate to have few incidents of vandalism over these 12 years). “There’s no toilet paper in the bathroom.” This is annoying, but less problematic than “The toilet is overflowing.” This good news reaches your ears five minutes before Mass begins, but provides gravitas for opening announcements: “Please silence your cell phones (after checking messages and sending that essential text) and, by the way, could you refrain from using the restroom?”

The paradox of priestly ministry is that we love what we hate. I cannot imagine that our newly ordained priests, Fathers Kruse and Ratuiste, envisioned their ministry as plant and personnel managers, but it comes with the territory. What priest doesn’t take pride in a building or renovation project? What priest doesn’t gripe about bearing the burden of these projects? God bless the priests who really love this work. I just wasn’t one of them.

Besides leaving behind parish administration and embracing the freedom to be of immediate service to priests and parishes, our senior priests engage in specific projects. These may be things to write about another time. What I do in my creative time may be something to write about. And this will be something to surprise both of us.

Our IR editor, Eric Meisfjord, asked if I would like to write a column. I said I would (not that I would like to). You have just read the first installment of my quadragesimo anno. There is no plan; there is no theme. There are just deadlines. I won’t know where I am going until I get there. You will know when I know.

(As of July 1, Father Pautler is a senior priest of the Spokane Diocese and a regular columnist for the Inland Register.)

(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)

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