Change is inevitable, but we trust Christ to go before us

A priest reflects on the new possibilities and challenges presented by changing ministries.
Our Faith

“We will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet.” • (1 Cor. 15:51–52)

There is a saying from Heraclitus: “No one ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and you’re not the same person.” In other words, everything is in a state of flux; everything changes.

I have been a member of the Claretian Missionaries of the USA-Canada Province for 26 years. But for the first 22 years of my priesthood, I was a member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. When I joined the Claretians, the transition was difficult for my family. My parents were used to me coming home for dinner every Sunday night. One of my sisters told me that when she was a little girl, I had left her for the seminary, and now I was leaving my goddaughter in a similar way. It was hard. As Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées, “We must tear ourselves away from those who are nearest and dearest to us in order to imitate Jesus.”

Today, the Claretian province is going through a similar period of changes. In June 2023, we decided to follow Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries of society. To make this move, we knew we had to leave some longstanding ministries to open new possibilities. For example, we’ve been in Springfield, Missouri since 1981, including at the parish of Sacred Heart; at Missouri State University, Drury University, and Ozark Technical College campus ministries; and at the AccompañARTE Cultural Center. I myself was pastor of the parish from 2007 to 2008; in 2008, I also become the director of Catholic campus ministry in Springfield until 2017. The recent pastor opened a winter shelter for those experiencing homelessness. We have poured our hearts into these ministries. But there’s a call to go to the peripheries. Using Søren Kierkegaard’s concept of a leap of faith, we’re hopeful that we are being led by the Spirit to new grace-filled ministries.


On a more personal scale, some individual members will move to new ministries, housing arrangements, or retirement facilities. Over the past 48 years, I have never liked moving. I am always curious about the possibilities a new ministry offers, but I don’t want to leave a ministry where I know the people, have friends, and have put down roots. Change is hard. Moving is hard. But there is a call to go to the peripheries of our world.

Of course, we can’t all go. Someone must stay home, earn salaries, and care for elderly members. Not all of our ministries are changing: There’s more work to be done in our existing programs with migrants in Mexico or with people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver, as well as in other existing ministries. Sometimes going to the margins is just being present rather than waiting for people to come to Mass, the office, or the church social. The peripheries are everywhere if our eyes are open to see and ears open to hear (Isa. 35:5).

As summer comes to an end, some of you will return from vacations, begin at new schools, and prepare for the coming autumn. Those who graduated may begin your careers or choose a different direction in life. We’ll change our summer clothes for winter ones. Changes are coming; they’re inevitable.

The Claretians who will begin new assignments will be asked to dive deep and explore the many possibilities before them. And the Claretians who remain will be asked to hold their ministries up to the light of the gospel to see if there’s something more to be done to create vibrant, evangelizing parishes and ministries where ministers and laypeople alike are on fire with the Spirit.


Change will come, but we trust Jesus goes before us.

This article also appears in the July 2024 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 89, No. 7, pages 9). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Unsplash/kazuend