This past week, I have had the sad task of placing Father Pat Sullivan on administrative leave. I did this in response to a complaint received about Father Sullivan which involved a boundary issue. The issue was not sexual nor was it criminal in nature but it did involve keeping proper boundaries. We do take all such matters very seriously. Our safe environment work is continuous. After information regarding the incident had been gathered, I asked our Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People to review the incident and the board’s recommendation to me was that Father Sullivan be sent for an assessment and in-patient treatment. I thank the members of our board for their competent service and ask that you please pray for all involved in this matter and for Father Sullivan during his time away.
In Father Sullivan’s absence, I have appointed Deacon Tom Cerar to serve at St. Elizabeth Parish, Dilworth, and Deacon Tom Jirik to serve at St. Andrew Parish, Hawley, officially entrusting to them “participation in the exercise of the pastoral care” in accord with Canon 517.2. This canon gives a suggestion to a bishop on what he might do to provide for the needs of God’s people “when there is a dearth of priests.” We thank Deacon Cerar and Deacon Jirik for their willingness to serve the faithful of St. Elizabeth’s and St. Andrew’s in this additional capacity. I have appointed Msgr. Michael Foltz to the supervisory role called for by this same canon and we thank him too for taking on this additional service. Please continue to pray for the vocations we need here in the Diocese of Crookston.
The house I grew up in had a spacious front porch, screened to keep the mosquitoes out. Oh how we enjoyed sitting out on that porch, swinging on the glider, listening to the crickets, enjoying cool breezes on hot summer evenings. Lent has a porch too. Lent is the only liturgical season that begins on a weekday, with a celebration marked with ashes and fasting. Ash Wednesday, and the three days that prolong it, are Lent’s porch. Here we gather and prepare to enter the front door opened for us on the First Sunday of Lent. On Lent’s porch, all faith communities are called to gather and, with ashes, prayer and fasting, are invited to take stock of our readiness for the Lenten exodus. Here we throw aside anything that could weigh us down on our Lenten journey and make our firm commitment to engage wholeheartedly in Lent or, as the Collect for Ash Wednesday puts it, to “take up battle against spiritual evils…armed with weapons of self-restraint.” We do so, reminded by the Scripture passages for the Mass of Ash Wednesday that our God has revealed himself to us as gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment (Joel 12:12-18). We are sinners who need to acknowledge our offenses and sins and turn to God to wipe out our offenses, wash us of our guilt and cleanse us of our sins (Psalm 51). Jesus calls us not to be hypocrites performing good works to be seen but to give alms, fast and pray in secrecy (Mt. 6:1-18) and St. Paul urges not to receive the grace of God in vain in this very acceptable time, the time of salvation.
I pray that each and every one has a truly grace-filled Lent. May our wholehearted engagement in Lent this year help us enter more deeply into the divine holy life our God has shared with us and to be ever more fully engaged as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in our world.