As I prepare for an episcopal visitation to France and a much needed vacation, I’m reminded of a frequent question I’m asked… “what do you do” or, as often family phrase it, “what have you been up to”? I usually brush off such enquiries with “oh, this and that” but today I’ve given it some thought… Of course, much of what I do you would expect any bishop to do, though unlike most other bishops I also have parochial responsibilities and no staff to help me.
Since October 1st 2018 (eight months and twenty-three days) I have offered 268 Masses; preached 264 homilies; given 27 Conferences and Catechism lectures; offered 35 Holy Hours; given approx 150 hours in voluntary work cooking approx’ 2’200 meals for the homeless; broadcast approx’ 349 hours of liturgies; travelled approx’ 9’588.4 miles; officiated at 6 ordinations and 1 episcopal consecration…!
Several Nursing Home visits and services, Holy Communion calls and three Viaticum calls. I’ve conducted several one-on-one vocational discernment interviews and numerous pastoral counselling sessions. I’ve fielded incardination enquiries and counselled clergy. Conducted funerals. weddings, baptisms and confirmations.
There have a been a half-dozen Trustees meetings, various workshops, conferences and committee meetings. I’ve organised two multi-faith public events, attended three multi-faith solidarity vigils, organised a multi-faith workshop and had several business meetings with multi-faith colleagues. Coffees, lunches and dinners with ecumenical colleagues and council officers, councillors and representatives of other charities and local concerns.
Then there’s the administrative tasks that go with all of the above, hours spent in correspondence, the daily postings of the Mass propers, uploading and editing of the broadcasts, typing up minutes, writing up notes and drafting newsletters and press releases. Typesetting missalettes for some of the ordination and other liturgies, sourcing music, researching and mugging up on rubrics and fulfilling the duties of a sacristan to boot!
I’m certainly not an exception and there are surely other clerics as busy if not busier than I? But certainly there are those who with greater resources, support and opportunity who do far less. Although our denomination is small and over the years has lost much of the material legacy of previous generations, I know that my fellow clergy are as committed as I to realising the Gospel in our lives, for and in the lives of others, through dedication and a real love of God.
So I shall enjoy the vacation part of my trip, even though I will be thinking and praying about my parishioners and colleagues and planning Conferences and Catechism classes, mission strategies and everything else while I’m away! In short because without the material benefits that so many others enjoy in ministry, my vocation remains for me a genuine joy despite its frequent disappointments, trials and tribulations.
One thing is certain, my answer will never change to that other frequent question, “what’ll happen when you retire” for I cannot retire from what is for me a way of life I genuinely enjoy and not an occupation.