My brothers and sisters at St. Mary’s,
Greetings from Canisius College!
First, a word of explanation – there are two types of priests in the Catholic Church: diocesan priests and religious priests. Diocesan priests promise celibacy when they are ordained transitional deacons and promise obedience to the bishop and his successors at their priestly ordination. They do not take religious vows. They are ordained to serve in a particular diocese, primarily in parishes.
Religious priests belong to a religious order and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They have a longer formation than diocesan priests. They live in community and do the works of their religious order, such as teaching, foreign mission work, or serving the poor, and they can be sent anywhere in the world where their religious order is present. At their ordination to the priesthood, they promise obedience, not to the bishop, but to their ordinary, a technical term for their major religious superior. When a religious priest is sent to a particular diocese to work, it is his provincial who assigns him, not the bishop, although the bishop welcomes him into the diocese once it has been determined that he is a priest in good standing.
When some suggested that I might be the next pastor of St. Mary Church Swormville, I said that I would be honored to do so, but that it was not my decision to make, nor would the bishop be able to assign me; my Jesuit provincial would make the call.
Bishop Ed Scharfenberger, our Apostolic Administrator, wrote my provincial asking if I could serve as pastor of St. Mary. After prayer and consultation with his assistants, my provincial has decided that I should continue my work at Canisius College, which I only began in January.
In my 32 years of priesthood, while working in Jesuit schools and with the Jesuit Refugee Service, I have always assisted in a diocesan parish on weekends. I love sacramental work, especially saying Mass, preaching, and hearing confessions. Past years and these recent months, especially, have been a time of grace for me to be with all of you at St. Mary’s.
While I am disappointed I can’t do everything, I love my vow of obedience and have always done what is asked of me, so I look forward to my work at Canisius.
Let’s all continue to pray for a pastor for St. Mary’s, and know that I will be asking the Lord particularly for a pastor who won’t mind sharing his flock with a Jesuit.
See you in church or online!
Fr. Jack Mattimore, S.J.