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Priests get advice on managing transitions

Msgr. John Canary, former rector of Mundelein Seminary and former vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago, led a workshop on life transitions for archdiocesan priests ordained within the last five years on Sept. 4. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Olivia Martin

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Change is hard.

And especially for new priests — who might experience several changes in assignments in their first decade in ministry — it pays to be ready for it.

On Sept. 4, archdiocesan priests ordained within the last five years gathered at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, for a workshop on life transitions. Monsignor John Canary, former rector of Mundelein Seminary and former vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago, led the workshop.  

Among various life transitions and changes discussed, Msgr. Canary focused on instructing the priests on how to manage moving to a new parish.

“Next to death experience, for most people the most stressful thing that can come upon an individual is to change residence,” said Msgr. Canary.

He pointed out three phases of transition: the end of something, the in-between and the new beginning.

During the ending phase, there winds up being a lot of internal reflection as a person comes to a conclusion about what his work, relationships and self-understanding meant during the time that is coming to a close.

In the in-between phase, enthusiasm and commitment are recovered in the new place as possibilities in the new stage of life unfold. 

And in the new beginning phase, motivation and comfort settle in.

“The transition is not necessarily a neat chronological or geographical experience,” said Msgr. Canary. “It’s related to tasks.

 And in each of the moments of transition, there are different tasks. Until the task is completed [for each phase], the transition is not complete.”

For example, in order to move from the “end” phase to the “in-between,” the person in transition must be grateful — say all his thank-yous — and depart — say goodbye to his work, home or loved ones.

“During the in-between time, things are slowly clarifying for you; you’re getting a sense for things,” said Msgr. Canary. “In the in-between times what is very important is motivation, that you revisit why you’re doing what you’re doing. . . . The task is reinvestment.”

Once a person has reinvested in the new place, work or relationship, the “new beginning” has begun.

Learning about the transition process is something Father Michael Guastello — newly appointed pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Wathena, St. Benedict Parish in Bendena and St. Charles Parish in Troy — was thankful for.

“[It was a helpful reminder to] be patient with myself, and know that it could take two to three years for the transition to be complete,” he said.

Father Mark Ostrowski agreed.

Newly ordained and appointed to Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa and chaplain of St. James Academy, Father Ostrowski is focused on managing the changes in his life well.

“I’m still trying to get into a good rhythm of life, which is really important to stay grounded,” he said. “Consistency is key to the spiritual life. 

“And everything I do is an empty gesture if the Lord isn’t involved!”

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Olivia Martin

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