By: Matthew Restall
Parish Placement for six months in fourth year is something every seminarian looks forward to as soon as they begin their journey toward priesthood.
I myself had many ideas of what it would be like, the things I would do and the people I would meet. In a word, it looked something like a lifetime worth of evangelization on a daily basis.
This has not been my experience.
Being on Parish Placement, I have been privileged to be present with people during the more usual elements of their life. Sitting beside parishioners at Mass or chatting with someone over a hot bowl of soup at the Exodus ‘drop-in’ lunch, helping a five-year-old calculate the sum of eighty soccer players take-away 16, or being ever ready to say ‘yes’ to the fifth cup of tea in order to enjoy a conversation with an older parishioner in their home. This has been my experience, and it is good.
Sure, I’ve started a weekly Eucharistic Adoration prayer group which has anywhere between six and twenty people turn up to pray - although I give a reflection, we’re all in agreement that it is Jesus whom they come to hear. However, I am finding that the most important part of my Ministry is just being present with people, whether it is listening to their stories or listening to their feelings in the silence. Right now, as a seminarian I am un-able to administer the Sacraments, but I am able to let them see Christ in me.
At times parish placement can be difficult, especially when I come with pre-conceived expectations. The antidote has really been recognizing and accepting that I can’t control the circumstances of other people’s life. It is only when I acknowledge that just by being present and available, that then I can begin to follow the path of St Paul and strive to say:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Gal.2:20
Parish Placement is a part of the formation program for Corpus Christi College seminarians. I have been placed in a parish to gain experience and to live out the mission of life I am being called to live right now - and for me what that is a life of abandonment in Christ.
I’m beginning to see that abandonment in Christ has more to do with my disposition, willingness and preparedness to heed the advice of St Peter to:
Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect. – 1 Peter 3:15
Parish Placement may not look exactly how I anticipated – however it has certainly affirmed my view that the people of God need priests who are prepared to walk beside them in their life. It seems that famous adage rings true when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel – one doesn’t care what you know until they know that you care, and Our Lord never failed to show how much he cared.