“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ~
I remember the beginning of that Lent in 1996. I went to see Bishop Melczek about my pastoral assignment. I had been the pastor of St. Maria Goretti in Dyer for a year and a half and I heard that there was a parish that was opening that had a school. I have always believed in Catholic Schools and was always willing to take a parish that had a school so as to support Catholic Education.
I told the bishop that there was nothing wrong at my present parish that I was trying to get away from and that I was quite happy and content there. However, I told him, I wasn’t ordained to be happy and content. I was ordained to serve the people of the diocese and if the bishop felt that I would better serve the diocese by moving to a large parish that had a school, I would be willing to go. I told him that, in the spirit of Lent, I was willing to “give up” my present assignment.
He smiled and said, you may as well go home and start packing. Thus began my time in Michigan City at Queen of All Saints. I really enjoyed that assignment and loved the people there. I had no intention of leaving that place until the equivalent of two assignments (12 years) had passed. However, seven years later, the bishop called me into his office and told me that he knew I was happy at my present parish; but, he needed me to go somewhere else. He had prayed about it and called me in to ask me to go to Munster and be the pastor at St. Thomas More.
When he spoke about the potential assignment, he told me about some of the problems that the parish was having. Financially, they were in trouble. Deep trouble. It would take a lot of work to bring things around. It would definitely not be comfortable. I knew that it would end up pitting me against some people because radical change was going to be necessary. It was not the kind of assignment that someone willingly requested.
However, as I had told the bishop seven years earlier, I was ordained not to be comfortable but to serve the faithful of the diocese. If the bishop wanted me to step out of my comfort zone, in a spirit of obedience, I would do so. I was correct. It was incredibly difficult. There were people that fought me. There were many struggles. But, seventeen years later, we have a booming enterprise going. The Kingdom is being built day by day.
Now, I look into the future and am beginning to see signs telling me that the retirement exit is getting nearer on this highway of life. It is getting closer to being comfortable. But, there are still six years left in the priesthood. I would hope that they take place at my present parish; but, I was ordained not for myself but for the diocese. If I am called to step out of my comfort zone once again, well, I guess I would have to do it out of holy obedience.
That is what life is all about, especially life in the Lord. God wants us to be willing to step out of our comfort zones in order to serve Him better day by day. It might not be easy for us or on us. However, if we embrace His will, He walks with us and gives us all that we need to flourish. We surprise ourselves by learning new skills and meeting new friends. We grow in faith and hope and love.
God never lets us down. In order to discover that, we need to step away from our comfort zone and follow in the footsteps of His Son.
FAITH ACTION: Grasp the Lord’s hand firmly today and step out in faith knowing that He will be with you.