Greetings from The New Pastor!
I must admit that I thought for quite a few moments on the best way to say “hello” for the first time. I figured that simply using the classic salutation was probably the best way to get the job done. So, I greet you from St. James, Louisiana where I write in a rectory that is slowly being packed up and prepped for transition. While it is difficult to leave the people and ministry I’ve known for the past six years, I look forward to what the Holy Spirit draws forth in a new place with a new linked parish family.
I’m very grateful to Fr. Paul for allowing me the space in your bulletin to make a brief introduction and to explain a few things that you may notice taking place before I arrive in July.
As you may have already heard, I’ve got some roots in the area already. My mother, Marie, graduated from Livonia High School in 1958 and grew up in the Frisco area. Her mother was Neila Solar, who married William Ward and some years later F.C. “Doc" Austin. If you want some good dirt on me, ask my Aunt Agnes and Uncle Richard Ward in Maringouin. As godparents, I’m sure they remember parts of my childhood better than I do! I’m the only (and adopted) son of Marie and Basil Decker and grew up in Baker. While dad died about a year and a half ago after battling with heart and kidney trouble, mom is still trundling along! I’m sure you’ll get to know her as well, since she likes to visit. It will be nice to be a little closer without having to brave Interstate 10! Those are some of the family basics for starters and there’ll be much more time for us to get to know one another.
I’ve been a priest for nine years, a pastor of two linked parishes for six of those nine years, an assistant at three parishes in the diocese, and an administrator of one of those parishes for a brief time. I have served in various positions including chairman of the priest’s council, member of the clergy continuing education committee, and diocesan spiritual director for the office of youth ministry. I’ve also worked for many years in an unofficial capacity with Catholic Life Television. Presently, I am the director of mission for Catholic Community Radio, a lay apostolate which you can hear on your radio dial at 1380am along Highway 77.
Fr. Amrit and I have been in discussion for several months since the announcement of my appointment to the TriParishes. I’m grateful to the diocese for allowing Fr. Amrit to remain my strong and holy right hand as he continues his role as parochial vicar in our three parishes and mission. Thank you, Fr. Amrit for your continued “yes” to the Lord as you mark 25 years of priesthood. I look forward to your wisdom and insight!
One of the the things Fr. Amrit suggested, which I must admit I was already considering, was the importance of a priestly presence at as many of our parishes as possible. To that end, we have discerned that Fr. Amrit will continue to live at the St. Joseph rectory in Grosse Tete, I will take up residence in Livonia at St. Frances transitioning from a part office-part dwelling to a priest’s dwelling only, and Immaculate Heart of Mary will serve as the administrative and pastoral center for our linked parishes. This way, all three campuses will have an integral part to play in the life of you, the people whom we serve.
What this means is that we are beginning the process of moving the three staff members that are presently in the rectory at St. Frances to office space at the office in Maringouin. You may be thinking, “Father, that’s a tight fit!” And you’d be right. It’s important to recognize that times of transition aren’t easy and for a time they involve discomfort. In my past six years of pastoring a linked parish, I have encountered the need for the staff to be physically present to one another, both for clear communication and also active collaboration. The unity of our staff is very important in being able to serve you to the best of our ability. I’m thankful for the willingness of Gloria, Peggy, and Faye to embrace the discomfort that come with transition. I’m also thankful for Akeisha, Margie, and Elsie and their openness to share a common workspace. Believe me, as I pack up my rectory, I have been praying for them! While Peggy will have office hours at the TriParish Pastoral Center in Maringouin, she will continue to maintain an office space in the hall at St. Frances so that she can have the resources she needs for the Parish School of Religion close-at-hand. My hope is to have this in place by the end of July. Eventually, we hope to make more permanent renovations of the office in Maringouin so that we can best administer the temporal and spiritual needs of our parishes.
I know that there are questions that will arise. I’m also aware of the Pastoral Planning Task Force visitation and report for our parishes. Please know that Fr. Amrit and I are working with the Task Force to ensure the vitality and life of all our communities. It is my great desire that we embark upon a future not filled with doubt and concern, but rather as Jeremiah prophesies in an oracle sent by the Lord:
"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future filled with hope.”
Let us hope together, that faith and love may flow from our efforts to work, pray, and live in the parishes which God has graced so many generations of our families. I look forward to sharing life with all of you!
In Christ’s Hope and Mary’s “Yes”,