As we enter this New Year, I invite you to look back over the past year and see what the unexpected blessings were. Too often in the moment we get tunnel vision and can’t see the bigger picture and the oft unexpected ways that God comes through in our lives. I love this passage from the book of Tobit that describes Raguel and his wife, Edna. Their daughter Sarah is married to Tobiah. There had been a pattern of her previous husbands dying, so they expected Tobiah to suffer the same fate. But through the grace of God, they are kept safe. Upon finding out that they were both fine, Raguel and Edna break into a prayer of Thanksgiving:
“Then they praised the God of heaven in these words:
‘Blessed are you, God, with every pure blessing! Let all your chosen ones bless you forever! Blessed are you, for you have made me happy; what I feared did not happen. Rather you have dealt with us according to your abundant mercy. Blessed are you, for you have shown mercy toward two only children. Grant them, Master, mercy and protection, and bring their lives to fulfillment with happiness and mercy.’” (Tobit 8:15-17) What might you be going through now but can still yet turn out different than you expect it to? Take hope in the New year! Don’t be held captive by fear.
In this past year I asked for and received permission from Bishop Boyea to apply to a Spiritual Direction program offered for Diocesan priests through the Institute for Priestly Formation. This is a three-year program. Each year there will be three one-week sessions throughout the year held at Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago. One of the three sessions is a retreat that takes the place of the annual retreat every priest is obligated to make each year.
A number of priests from our Diocese have attended and have all spoken of how good it was for both their own personal growth as well as their ongoing formation and training. My brother, Fr. Gary, is just finishing the program and has consistently been encouraging me to go. Coincidently, Fr. Matt Hartley, native son of Sacred Heart in Hudson, and a priest serving in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, will also be finishing the program this year. I have been accepted for the program and will begin this coming spring. The sessions are only Monday through Friday, so that the priests who are attending can be back to their parishes in time for the weekend Masses and commitments. We are blessed to have Fr. Ginu so he can cover Masses and other needs at the Parishes when I will be gone. I am excited for this opportunity and all the Lord will do through it. Three of my ordination classmates will also be in this cohort with me, including two from the Archdiocese of Detroit who I don’t get to see that often. It will be great catching up with them.
This is just a heads up for right now, as the first session isn’t until later on in the spring. But here is my schedule for the next three years:
Year I: Year II: Year III:
April 28-May 3, 2024 May 11-16, 2025 April 26-May 1, 2026
Oct. 13-18, 2024 Oct. 19-24, 2025 Oct. 18-23, 2026
Jan. 12-17, 2025 Feb. 1-6, 2026 Jan. 31-Feb. 5, 2027