By Father Marty Goetz
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak…..”
And to this very familiar Bible passage, I would like to add: “A time to say hello, and a time to say goodbye.”
For the past few weeks as I thought about what I was going to write in my last Catholic Messenger column as vocations director for the Diocese of Davenport, many thoughts and ideas ran through my head and heart.
I figured it would be a time to thank the many people who have helped me these past four years. I could write about the many things that were done to promote vocations and the many things left undone. I could share with you how great it was to be vocations director and how excited I am to get back into parish work. And one last time I could make an appeal about how badly we need the gift of vocations in our diocese and our Church today.
And then it hit me!
Even though I’m leaving vocations work, does any priest ever leave vocations work? In a short book I handed out to all the priests of the diocese, Father Thomas Richter of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors wrote: “Since I have been the vocation director for eight years, no young man has put me down as the one who most influenced him to be a priest. This is an eminently important fact. Too many priests think the vocation director is the priest in the diocese who has been given the authority, influence and responsibility to attract and call men to the priesthood. This is not the case. Since I have been vocation director, it is clear to me that I had more power, influence and credibility in calling forth men to the priesthood when I was a parish priest or chaplain teaching in a Catholic school than I have as the vocation director.”
As I have served as your vocations director for four years and have attempted to help young men and women discern their call from the Lord and how precious a gift their vocation is, I have found that God truly is a God of surprises. The Lord surprised me by leading me to a deeper and fuller understanding of my own vocation as a priest and how much people love their priests. I am humbled by the strong faith and graces of all who have helped and who have worked side by side with me in our quest to bring others to God’s presence in our diocese.
May God’s blessings be in abundance for all of you. I’ll continue to remember you in my prayers and especially Father Thom Hennen, our new vocations director. And just a note to the cluster parishes of Riverside, Wellman and Richmond: Be ready! I imagine I’ll continue to search for new vocations.
It’s a forever thing.
(Fr. Goetz is outgoing vocations director for the Davenport Diocese. Contact him at (563) 888-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)