Dear Brothers & Sisters of Lourdes Parish Family,
We have "good news" to share today, regarding the pastoral care of our church family as we enter the "2nd generation of our history, together in the Lord!
Many have been eagerly waiting this news, some with a bit of frustration. But precisely because the pastoral plan has taken longer in coming, I can tell you that the process has been able to 'breathe', evolve and 'morphe' into this 'final product'. It will serve our parish family well, and invite us to grow and give glory to God as the Church, here in West De Pere! That's our first priority, right?!
I ask for your openness to it all, and for your continued prayers for our parish family, please!
*Norbertine Father, Benny Jacob, a priest of the Quasi Canonry of Kollam, in India, will become the Parochial Vicar (Associate Pastor) of our parish family, effective July 1st, 2016 (or as soon as his R-1 visa processing will allow).
*He is also designated to become the 3rd Administrator/Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on July 1st, 2017.
*Newly Ordained Norbertine Father, Bradley Vanden Branden, the first priest-son of our parish will become "Priest Celebrant" for our parish family, along with another assignment, to be announced after his ordination on June 4th.
*Norbertine Father, Timothy Shillcox, has received a 10-month extension as 2nd Pastor of Lourdes, until July 1st, 2017.
Father Benny, 43, has served as pastor of the largest Norbertine Parish in India; he has deep Faith, wonderful pastoral skills and a warm, kind heart. He is proficient in English, and he is eager to come and be with us!
In a very unique way, his presence will help "grow" our parish family, and invite us to continue to put into practice our "All Are Welcome" way of being together in the Lord!
He is part of a foundation of Norbertines, (along with Father Binu Varghese, who helps with Monday Mass) growing toward independence as an abbey; his contribution of his salary 'back home' facilitates the training and support of seminarians in a beautiful and very selfless way!
Father Brad, of course, is no stranger to us! He is our son and brother! And as his family, parents, Joan & Tom, and his sister Kally, along with Lourdes, have 'given him' to the Norbertine Order of De Pere, now the Norbertine Order 'gives him back' to us as "Priest Celebrant" - assisting on a regular basis in the liturgy of the parish! Certainly we are eager to welcome him back home, and to experience his ministry, and continue to form & support him as a young Norbertine priest!
Father Tim - I am being blessed with a "Baker's Dozen" pastoral term. Bishop Ricken reached out in January, given my family circumstances, and offered me another year here, if that would be helpful. Initially I declined, not wanting to disappoint the parish after all this discernment, or to be a "special case" when other diocesan pastors are held to the 12-year limit.
But both with regard to my family circumstance, and Abbot Gary Neville's insight - that a stretch of time for Father Benny to get acclimated, to our country, culture, to the way our diocese and our parish 'operate', would be helpful before becoming pastor - this solution emerged. I will eagerly welcome mentor & support him for a time & then hand over the reins to him, next summer as 3rd pastor.
I've already had my "last year" of being your pastor. I see the next year as our receiving Father Benny's "first year" with us. And while I'm glad to serve collaboratively with him and the staff as your pastor, as Saint John the Baptist says: "He must increase; while I must decrease" (John 3:30)
I hope this plan meets with your faith and eager joy! I also realize that for some it will be disappointing. Hopefully acknowledging the whole range of emotional response is itself holy, healing, and the source of the energy we need to walk ahead...together in the Lord Jesus, Whom we all love so much! as we do....
"God bless us ....... EVERY one"!