by Marc and Julie Anderson
SABETHA — It’s the culmination of his entire life up until now.
Or, at least that’s how Father Jaime Zarse, the archdiocese’s youngest pastor, described his installation on Sept. 9 after the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Sabetha. During the Mass, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann installed him as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Sabetha, St. Augustine Parish in Fidelity and St. James Parish in Wetmore. A luncheon followed in the parish hall.
Calling the day one of “absolute joy,” Father Zarse said that, although he was nervous about the actual installation itself, he believes his entire life’s experience, particularly the years he spent in priestly formation, has led him to the opportunity to serve as spiritual father for the 220 families entrusted to his care.
Prior to being named pastor of the three parishes, Father Zarse served as associate pastor at Christ the King Church in Topeka and the chaplain of Hayden High School. He also served as a chaplain at a prison for women.
The archbishop formally installs every new pastor he names. The installation occurs weeks or months after the newly assigned priest has undertaken his new pastoral duties. But the visit gives the archbishop the opportunity to officially introduce the priest to the people.
The rite also includes a public profession of faith by the new pastor, in which he pledges to willingly serve the people of God within the context of his parish assignment.
“It’s also a time,” said the archbishop, “for me to hold up the importance of the priesthood in the life of the church and our need for priests, our need for vocations to the priesthood, our need for everyone in the church to support and encourage vocations to the priesthood.”
Referring to the current negative publicity about some priests, the archbishop said it has been his experience “with our priests here in the archdiocese that they’re dedicated and committed to the best of their abilities to serve the Lord.”
This year, the archbishop said, the archdiocese has 35 seminarians in various stages of formation. Additionally, he looks forward to spring 2019 when, hopefully, he will ordain another six men to the priesthood.
Elsewhere, Archbishop Naumann discussed the Sunday readings, inviting those gathered to consider what it would be like to be completely deaf just as the man in Gospel.
The man’s friends, he said, brought him to Jesus because they thought Jesus could do something for him.
“Jesus responds with compassion,” he said, taking the man off by himself for intense prayer.
“We’re told that immediately, the man’s ears opened and he could hear,” he added.
“On one level,” the archbishop continued, “this reading challenges us to have a greater compassion or concern for those who are physically deaf.”
But it also serves to remind us, he said, of the rite of baptism, in which the priest touches the ears and mouth of a newly baptized person as he prays the person will hear God’s word and be willing to proclaim it.
“This ritual reminds us that Jesus came to heal all of humanity from a spiritual deafness,” he said. “Jesus came so that we might hear and understand the great love that God has been attempting to communicate to us for centuries.”
“As we pray today,” concluded Archbishop Naumann, “we pray in a very special way for Father Zarse as he begins his ministry here — that the Lord will anoint him and help him to be a good shepherd for God’s people, a good spiritual father who’s willing to do anything, to make any sacrifice, for the spiritual welfare of those entrusted to his care.”