Program #0507 for Friday, April 12, 2013: Fr. Mark from the Holy Land; Fr. John Sheridan on beginnings and endings in parish collaboratives

Fr. Mark from the Holy Land; Fr. John Sheridan on beginnings and endings in parish collaboratives

Fr. Mark from the Holy Land; Fr. John Sheridan on beginnings and endings in parish collaboratives

Summary of today’s show: Live from Jerusalem! Fr. Mark O’Connell joined the show by phone from the Holy Land where he’s on pilgrimage with Cardinal Seán and brother priests to give a taste of the amazing experience, including renewing baptismal vows in the Jordan and celebrating Mass in the Lord’s Empty Tomb as well as riding a camel. Then Fr. John Sheridan joined Scot Landry and Fr. Chip Hines to talk about his experience as a pastor of a parish that’s joining one of the new Disciples in Mission collaborative even as he takes a new assignment as pastor of another of the collaboratives.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chip Hines

Today’s guest(s): Fr. John Sheridan, Pastor of St. James Parish in Salem

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Today’s topics: Fr. Mark from the Holy Land; Fr. John Sheridan on beginnings and endings in parish collaboratives

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show, including Fr. Chip Hines and Fr. John Sheridan. Also joining us is Fr. Mark O’Connell calling in from Jerusalem. He talked about the photos of him from yesterday of him riding a camel. Scot asked Fr. Mark about his highlights of visiting the Holy Land. Fr. Mark said it far exceeds his expectations to be on this trip with 29 priests and Cardinal Seán. It’s a holy trip. He put his feet in the Sea of Galilee and they prayed at the Wailing Wall for the beginning of the Sabbath. Tomorrow, they’re going to the Holy Sepulchre early tomorrow morning.

They discussed the the experience of riding the windy, choppy seas on the Sea of Galilee, but he was told that it’s usually even more choppy and so he imagined what it must have been like for Jesus to walk across the water. He added that the guide pointed out so many areas all around, little things like the hill which was the reference to a “light on the hill”.

Fr. Mark said that celebrating the Mass of the Annunciation in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, right where the Angel Gabriel came, was the first “oh my goodness” moment of the trip, but those come every hour. Tomorrow, he expects to be the peak as they go to Bethlehem after the Holy Sepulchre and then later to the Upper Room. He said that even the men who have been to the Holy Land before recognize this is a special trip. They didn’t have their cardinal renew their baptismal vows in the Jordan River or celebrate Mass literally in the Tomb of Jesus tomorrow.

Scot asked Fr. Mark what is it about the trip that is exceeding his expectations. Fr. Mark said what he’s read in the Bible clicks into place when you’ve been there. Reading the Bible passage while you’re looking at it, all the little things click into place. Walking up from the Kidron Valley, through the gate of the city, and to the Holy of Holies like Jesus makes it so real.

Scot then asked Fr. Mark about the photo of Fr. Mark, Fr. Paul Soper and Cardinal Seán wearing headgear in the desert. Fr. Mark said they got out on an overlook to Jerusalem and some men were selling some Bedouin headdresses. He ignored them at first, but then he saw the cardinal wearing one and they didn’t want the cardinal to be all alone. Truth be told, they got snookered. Fr. Paul negotiated them down from $20 to $15, but they found out later that the Cardinal paid only $5. He said Fr. Stephen Zukas not only rode the camel but also a donkey and as he’s 6-foot-5, that was quite a sight.




2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chip discussed the tangible joy in Fr. Mark’s voice even though it’s after 11pm in Jerusalem. Fr. John said this has lit the fire under him to go sometime. Scot asked Fr. Chip how it’s been going at St. Joseph in Medford. Fr. Chip talked about going through the Triduum for the first time with the new parish, how exciting it is each time. He’s settling into a good rhythm and they’re working in collaboration with St. Francis in Medford.

Scot also noted that Fr. Chip is on the cover of CatholicTV’s monthly magazine advertising the movie review show Spotlight. Fr. Chip said they’ve recorded 114 shows so far. He encouraged people to send ideas for the show to

Scot now welcomes Fr. John Sheridan, currently pastor in Salem, but soon to be pastor in Middleboro, Lakeville, and Rochester. Fr. John said he’s looking forward to Fr. Chip’s review of “42”, about the legendary Jackie Robinson.

Scot said the Salem collaborative under the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan will be the only four-parish collaborative. He will be moving to the extreme southern end of the Archdiocese. Fr. John said there couldn’t be a better pick to become pastor in Salem than Fr. Dan Riley. He said they’ve been working for two years in Salem to bring together the lay leadership and see how the parishes can work together. Scot noted Fr. Riley helped Sacred Heart in Weymouth a few years ago to bring the community together to rebuild the church after it burned down and now the parish is thriving. He said it was no small accomplishment by the leadership in Salem to get four parishes to agree to be part of Phase 1 of the Disciples in Mission.

Fr. John talked about the now-closed St. Joseph Parish, which was his first assignment, and how the people of Salem have grown after that parish closed. Fr. Chip asked about the diverse community in Salem. Fr. John said there’s a Polish community and a Hispanic community and there’s even a Ukrainian Catholic church, which isn’t part of the archdiocese, but they wanted to work with. They determined to work on what everyone has to bring to the table and what they all have in common. Each parish has it’s unique skills and gifts and they build on what’s there.

Fr. John was at St. Joseph’s from 1990 to 1996 and then came back to St. James in 2004 and has been pastor there since, about 14 years total. Scot asked him about his discernment in offering his resignation to go where the cardinal determines he would best serve the archdiocese. Fr. John said he’s walked through a lot of emotions. When he announced there would be a new pastor in Salem, there were gasps. He’s been there long enough to have seen children grow from baptism to communion.

Fr. John said the Willows in Salem has a store called Hobbs that sells the best popcorn anywhere. They have a hundred-year-old corn popper there that makes amazing popcorn. But he said as much as he’ll miss Salem, he’s spent his last Holy Week and Easter focusing on the Resurrection. The chaos of the last few weeks is a jumble of excitement, loss, and a sense the Lord is calling him to do this. He got into this knowing he serves at the pleasure of the Archbishop. On holy Thursday, he used Pope Francis’ Chrism Mass homily as the basis of his homily and he’s felt that over the last 8 years he’s given himself in that way to the parish. All the good work they’ve done never ends.

Fr. Chip said it’s testimony to Fr. John that he was asked to be a pastor in a Phase 1 collaborative to continue this work. Fr. John said Fr. Aveni, who is the current pastor, has done a great job. Fr. John said it’s three towns, three churches, two parishes, and one pastor. He said it’s perfect in happening between Easter and Pentecost, in the middle of the now and not yet. He said he’s been down to the parishes to visit and he said it’s a lively community with lots going on. Scot noted He’s going from city life in Salem to some of the most rural parishes in the Archdiocese. Fr. John said he’s always served in cities, but he’s the son of a farmer and the first time visiting St. Rose of Lima he looked out over dairy farms and took in a deep breath.

Scot noted that that these two parishes might be the largest in combined land area. Fr. John said the people there have a great sense of humor about being on the fringe. He said Middleboro is the second biggest town in the Archdiocese in land area, second only to Plymouth. He noted that the churches are in three different environments, in town, by a lake, and out by farms. In Middleboro, they have five buildings including a large hall which he thought would be great for youth ministry.

In Salem, he stressed that the archdiocese wants to work with the parishes and provide everything they need to do what they have to do. Fr. John said his motto for this 2013 on New Year’s Day was “Behold I make all things news” and this was before he knew what was going to happen. Scot asked him about his custom of taking a motto from Scripture for the year.

Scot said the parishes will be surrounded on three side by the Diocese of Fall River. He said most dioceses in the US fall along county lines, but because they didn’t want to have Cape Cod separated from Fall River/New Bedford went they created the diocese, Fall River was given five communities in southern Plymouth County. Fr. John he tells people that he’ll be out by Edaville Railroad and they say, “Oh yeah!”

Scot asked what aspects about the Disciples in Mission training that Fr. John is looking forward to. Fr. John said he has been told that people will be trained to build the youth ministry with him, to figure out what is needed by the people in the mission. He said he has been in some of the most difficult situations before and now he’s got a new blank slate with a lot of potential.

Scot asked Fr. Chip as a member of the archdiocesan clergy personnel board about what it takes to assign priests under the new pastoral plan. Fr. Chip said they know that they are affecting people’s lives in very big ways and the board has reached out to priests who are being affected by this heavily. Some are upset and others are joyful. But the internal process he can speak about has always been about who is the best person for the job. There’s a lot of information to take in regarding the collaboratives and they use it to find the best person. Since only 12 pastors are chosen for the 28 parishes, there’s a lot of displaced priests and they’re working to transition them. It’s been challenging, fun, and even heartbreaking as people are leaving places they like. Scot said anger happens when people’s expectations get violated. We’re in a new chapter in our archdiocese in how we staff our parishes. He noted that at one time it was said every pastor would move, but now the policy is to look at each situation and find the best guy whether the current pastor or a new one. But that opens it up subjectivity where people say, “Who could be better for the job than the priest we’ve had so long?” Part of the process is to clarify expectations.

Fr. John talked about how he plans to spend his last couple of months before June 4 when he shows up at this new assignment. It will be tough to leave the rectory where he lives with some senior priests in residence.

Scot and Fr. John discussed how people don’t travel from North to South through the archdiocese and how they treat the other side of the archdiocese as a distant country.

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