Monday, January 11, 2010


Yesterday one of my classmates was installed as pastor of the parish at which he has served as administrator over the past number of months. Still in residence is the former pastor Fr. Schleicher. He is a bit of a walking miracle. One day he is literally on his death bed and the next he is teeing off at a local golf course. He’s like that great old car that for some miraculous reason keeps starting and getting you there day after day.

Things are rough for him these days. As we prepared to celebrate this great occasion with Bishop Pevec – bustling about – giving last minute instructions and making introductions – Father comes in slowly and makes his way to a chair from which he will vest.

He looks feeble and sometimes people speak to him as though his mind is feeble also but it is as sharp as a tack. “Gads,” I say to him, “I wish I would have as much hair at your age.” “Well, you better start growing some hair then” he quips back.

Living with my first pastor I saw firsthand that there is such a thing as age discrimination. He too was an old war horse bound and determined to die with his stole on. We might both forget the same name (and he would usually come up with it before I ever would) but with me they would joke that it was a good thing I was a priest and could read rubrics to get along everyday whereas every instance of forgetfulness with my pastor was stored away as evidence by some that he was losing it in his old age.

Fr. Schleicher could not make it in the procession nor stand for long periods. During the Eucharistic prayer he was helped forward to a bar stool and kept a glass of water on the edge of the altar. He still prayed his section of the prayer in his trademark loud, gruff, masculine voice.

What is beauty? Is it that all of the priests and ministers stand up straight and tall and fall seamlessly into processions and can stand still with hands properly folded? Or is it a community standing and applauding the man who had been their spiritual father for decades, who was still true to his vocation, who made an effort to honor and give his approval to the Young Turk who was taking his place and the third pastor of the parish? Is not beautiful that a community does not simply throw out the old for the exciting new?

It is true that at times we wish for new leadership hoping that new life will come; new life that will bring a new spirit, new initiatives, new adventures. But we are not merely congregations that hire pastors. We are families united under our bishop and led by a man we call “father pastor.” To not honor them in their elder years is to bring disgrace to ourselves.

Mostly - or at least officially we are pretty good at this. Now we live in an odd age when younger and younger priests are taking over parishes - having to be more administrative rather than having the time to be creative in ministry. Sometimes right out of the seminary gate young men are taking over parishes - in the plural. There was a time when one was ordained in their twenties and would not become a pastor until they were well seasoned - at least in their 50s. It was a bit of talk when I was sent to Saint Sebastian in some circles - still being so young in priest years. (Priest years are the opposite of dig years - they are much longer.) And though we may benifit some from the energy of the younger pastor we will also miss out on some of the sage wisdom of the long experienced priest.

So kudos to Fr. Bline for giving so much of his day to honor one of the giants. God bless Fr. Schleicher and all of the men of service such as him out there.


Anonymous said...

Did he tell you he was an associate at St.Sebastian before he went to St. Francis De Sales? He was a kind man back then also.

Adoro said...

The Pastor Emeritis at my parish is still around, and very much revered. Every so often he concelebrates, walking slowly up the aisle, bent over, leaning on a cane, and as he goes, you can hear people gasping in excitement to see him there.

His eyes are bright as ever...he's one who can enter a room and his eyes alone light everything up!