June 4, 2015
Dear Parishioners of St. John parish in Clonmel,
I have asked Father Jarrod to share this important letter with you as it pertains to the pastoral leadership of the parish.
As you no doubt already know, I appointed the Reverend Andy Kuykendall to be the pastor of St. John replacing Father Jarrod. After considerable discernment and consultation and with the agreement of Father Andy, I have decided to rescind this appointment. The sole reason for this decision is the recognition that it would be best for Father Andy to remain where he is, in residence at the Priest’s Retirement Center and in service as Chaplain to the Catholic Care Center. He was very open to coming to St. John and in fact was looking forward to returning to parish ministry, but in the end, he concluded that the Diocese would be better served if he would remain in the ministry of pastoral care to the residents at Catholic Care Center. This would also support his ongoing efforts to improve his health concerning which he has made significant progress. I would like to thank Father Andy publicly for helping me make this decision by being very open to what the Holy Spirit was telling us.
Making this decision however places me in a somewhat challenging situation of providing pastoral leadership to St. John Parish, given the limited number of priests available at this time. With that said, I have put in place a way of providing pastoral leadership here that will require your cooperation and understanding. I have asked Father Bernie Gorges, the pastor of St. Peter in Schulte to serve also as your pastor. He has agreed to accept these additional responsibilities. I have also asked Father Tom Hoisington, whom I just appointed as Chaplain to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Wichita, to assist Father Bernie in the pastoral care of the both St. John and St. Peter. Father Hoisington will live in the rectory of St. John, not as pastor, but as priest in residence and in service to Father Bernie. Both will rotate in the Mass schedule and be in service to both parishes as they work together.
I cannot be certain how you receive this news, but I want to assure you that I have made these decisions with the best of intentions, keeping in mind many factors. Some may conclude that I am demoting the parish, which is the farthest thing from the truth. St. John’s is still a parish in its own right and has not become a mission parish. I have no intentions of closing the parish, which may be a fear of others. That also is incorrect. I am simply trying to put in place for now what I hope will provide adequate pastoral care of this parish. As we move forward, I will be monitoring this situation and will remain open to whatever directions seem clear by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the wise counsel of our people. I would ask that you welcome Father Bernie and Father Tom as your parish priests.
Please know of my prayers for you during the difficult time of transition. I would humbly ask your prayers for me as I remain,
Your humble servant,
Bishop Carl A. Kemme
I, too, am uncertain how each of you will receive this news. Some will receive it positively. Some will receive it negatively. I am asking you to receive it with faith in the Body of Christ.
Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a day when we realize the great and precious gift of being able to receive the Bread made Flesh and the Wine made Blood.
However, our reception of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ is not a private matter. It is not an act of individual devotion. It is an act of unity that forms us into the Body of Christ called the Church. The Communion we receive at this step enters us into the communion of the People of God. It is this Body of Christ, made possible by Communion, that I am asking us to put our faith in. Being the Body of Christ, being the People of God, means that we belong not only to a parish, but to a Diocese; and not only to a Diocese, but to a universal Church. The communion we receive here enters us into a people that is ordered as a family of families, with the Pope as our head, and the Bishop as the Apostle to our own local Church.
We cannot receive Communion but then presume to be in opposition to one another, to the Bishop or to the Universal Church. This is the very reason why Jesus said, “If you come to the Altar and there remember that anyone has something against you then leave your gift at the altar, and first go and be reconciled to one another and only then return to the altar.” We would have no Church we did not have the Eucharist. We would have no Eucharist if we did not have a priest. We would have no priest if we did not have a Bishop. This chair was never “my chair.” It has always been the Bishop’s chair, who is the Apostle of the Diocese of Wichita. I am his co-worker. Fourteen years ago I said yes to the Bishop and I will continue saying yes for the rest of my priesthood. And I am inviting you to share in my same ‘yes.’
The time has come for a new way for the Bishop to “provide pastoral leadership.” This new way does not make Clonmel a mission. It does not herald any future threat to the Parish as a Parish. It is simply another way of providing pastoral leadership. Fr. Bernie will be Pastor and Fr. Hoisington will live in residence as an associate priest to Fr. Bernie. They will share pastoral duties.
I have heard both positive and negative comments about this. I have heard of deep emotions, strong opinions, prayerful acceptance and normal questioning. This is neither good nor bad. It is simply the way in which we adjust to change. For some change is a cause for fear; but we belong to the Jesus who repeatedly said, “Do not be afraid.” Other people are inclined to write letters. I would rather you spend that time in the Church praying for the parish, our priests and our bishop. Whether our perspective is positive or negative is not the issue at hand. I am asking you to accept this model of pastoral care with faith in the Body of Christ.
We are Catholic. As Catholics we rejoice in having a Bishop who is charged with the ordering of the Diocese. The Bishop is ordained with a sacrament that gives him the charism to act with the power of the Holy Spirit for the Good of the people entrusted to him. Just as a married couple receives a special sacrament to strengthen their life with supernatural grace; so too the Bishop receives a special sacrament to give him the supernatural grace to lead a diocese. There are pressures on our diocese, on our parishes and on our priests that only the Bishop knows and he makes the best decisions he can for all involved. The faith we have in the Body of Christ is the faith that says the Church, both our parish and our diocese, is protected by the power and presence of that Holy Spirit. The same Catholicism that provides us with the Eucharist is the same Catholicism that provides us with the Body of Christ, under the leadership of our Pope and Bishop.
There is a certain honor in being chosen to receive this new model of pastoral leadership. All of you know that my time here has been marked by two assignments. For three years I was Pastor of Clonmel and Chaplain of Bishop Carroll. For four more I was Pastor here and Director of the office of faith formation. Both of those of assignments were new models of pastoral responsibility. As you also know that there was a lot of pressure carrying out my assignments. But even though I was asked to function in a unique pastoral ministry there was an implicit honor in being asked: the Bishop had faith in me that I could be successful in dual ministries. Who knows, maybe God wanted to use my dual assignments to show us that a new model can be successful.
In the same way, Clonmel is being asked to undertake a form of pastoral leadership that will require our “understanding and our cooperation.” And the honor is this: the Bishop knows that we are a parish that can make this form of Pastoral leadership be successful. The people of Clonmel know that we are a blessed parish. Our blessing as a parish gives us the strength to cooperate with the Bishop, confident that he is guided by the Holy Spirit through the grace of ordination.
So I must change the first line of this homily: I DO know how we will receive this news. We will receive it with faith because we are people of faith. Let us put our faith in the Body of Christ; both the body of Christ that is the Eucharist and the Body of Christ that is the Church. Today’s Solemnity reminds us that the flesh and blood we receive in communion unites our parish in communion with one another. And the Eucharist we celebrate as a parish unites us in communion with all other parishes in the Diocese. Let us rejoice in this Body.