Goodbye from Fr. Reutter
June 24, 2018
This is a very sad week for me, as I prepare to leave the parish on the afternoon of next Sunday, July 1st. I will have the Sunday Masses and a going away reception and then have to “ride off into the sunset” to my new Clermont County parishes. The psychologists who study such things like to remind people that moving and changing jobs are two of the most difficult things we have to manage in life. But of course, as I have emphasized over the years, being a priest and pastor is far more than a “job,” it is being a spiritual father. So after 12 years serving as pastor, it is more like losing a family than taking on a new career. It is certainly an abrupt transition, as well since I am pastor here on June 30th and in my new parishes on July 1st!
I certainly appreciate your prayers for my transition. I have certainly come to know and love the people of Our Lady of Victory over the last dozen years and have been very grateful to God for entrusting to me such a wonderful parish community. I have been inspired by the very deep faith of so many of the people here and their love of God and family. The Lord has been doing marvelous works in this parish for 175 years, and I am optimistic that the next generation will work hard to keep the Catholic faith alive here in Delhi.
Some of the parishioners have asked me why pastors have to move on at all. Some of the oldtimers remember an era when pastors would stay for decades, or even for life. But while it’s true that there was a period where this was not uncommon (mostly between the 1930s and 1970s), historically, it was not at all uncommon for pastors to move on after several years. To put things in perspective, I am the third-longest serving of the 27 pastors of this parish.
I think there is some wisdom in rotating pastors after a while. It’s a reminder to people that their relationship is first and foremost with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not any one particular priest. There can be a risk, if pastors stay too long, of what some call a “cult of personality.” That is, people think of the parish as “Fr. Smith’s parish,” rather than part of the universal Church, established where they live. (That is what a parish is – a geographical division of Christ’s one true and universal Church). It also gives a new priest an opportunity to put new ideas into place, since there is a possibility of parishes “stagnating” without new leadership, becoming less able to accomplish the mission of building Christ’s Kingdom on earth.
I am certainly hopeful that the parishioners will be welcoming to Fr. Benedict and supportive of his leadership. He is certainly a very capable man. There will be some changes, of course – we have very different personalities and every priest has different priorities – but I am very confident that he will be good for the spiritual life and health of the parish.
As I prepare to leave, I am thinking back on some of the priorities that I tried to help keep going or implement in the parish. I certainly hoped that we could renovate the church so that it was beautiful and fitting for the most important thing we do in our lives: celebrate the Holy Mass. Because of the generosity of the people and their creative and artistic talents, you the parishioners accomplished this far beyond what I anticipated.
I hoped that we could revive the practice of regular sacramental confession, so many more people would personally encounter the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ. I have noticed some increase, but not as much as I would have hoped. I think we still need to help get the word out about the power of that sacrament!
I hoped that we could continue the practice of spiritual renewal and building faith sharing and prayer groups so that the life of discipleship would extend beyond what happens on Sunday. We have seen some good fruits, such as the Christ Renews His Parish program which has done so much good to help people re-focus on Christ. We can do more.
I hoped to continue to make sure that the parishioners are equipped to continue to advance the Gospel of Life and protect the sacredness and dignity of life. That continues to be very strong here at Victory, and for that I am grateful.
I hoped we could engage our youth and young adults and help prevent the “falling away” from the faith. This has been an enormous challenge, since nationwide we have seen so many young people abandon their Catholic faith. I think we need to stay focused on this, because our Catholic high schools alone are no longer enough to keep them Catholic.
We welcome Fr. Benedict and thank the Lord for sending him to Victory as your shepherd. But as important as his leadership will be, it is ultimately up to you the lay faithful to embrace our faith, teach it to your families, and live it fearlessly and wholeheartedly.
That is my prayer for the good people of Our Lady of Victory. Thank you for everything.