Today is the last weekend with Father Levi Schmitt as our parochial vicar at OLQH and chaplain at Assumption. I want to thank him for his two years of service here in Wisconsin Rapids and wish him the best as he begins his new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s in Altoona and St. Raymond of Peñafort in Brackett as well as chaplain at Regis Middle and High schools. Having served in that assignment myself for three years, I know it well and I know that Fr. Levi will do well himself. It’s never easy moving from one assignment to another but as priests we are called to go wherever the bishop needs us.
Last weekend Father Steven Weller was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. Ordinations are always enjoyable times for priests: we get to see so many of our brother priests and celebrate new additions to our ranks. Being a priest is not an easy vocation (although what vocation is?) but having the support and fraternity of brother priests is of great consolation to us. As Father Weller (as he wishes to be called) moves into the OLQH rectory this week, we assure him of our support and prayers as he begins his first assignment. Priests remember their first assignments well: sometimes learning how to do things and other times learning how not to do things! I hope Wisconsin Rapids can give Fr. Weller the former, not the latter.
Sometimes people ask me what exactly is a “parochial vicar.” A parochial vicar is a priest who is associated with the pastor of a parish. He is a co-worker with the pastor and shares in his solicitude. Parochial vicars offer service in pastoral ministry by common counsel and effort with the pastor and under his authority. Normally in our diocese, a parochial vicar is assigned to assist in exercising the entire pastoral ministry for the whole parish but they can be assigned only to a determined part of the parish (for example, to youth and young adults), or a certain group people of the parish (for example, to a group who speaks a specific language), or even to assist in fulfilling a specific ministry in different parishes together (for example, providing care to all the homebound in a deanery).
In our diocese, most parochial vicars spend two years in an assignment. While some people say this is too short, it’s really for the benefit of the priest. As recently ordained priests, they need to learn about the various regions of our large diocese, about the different styles of parishes, of pastors, and all the pastoral and administrative work that goes on in a parish. Someday these parochial vicars will be named pastors and these short assignments as “young priests” help them to become ready to be pastors. Therefore, let us pray for all our recently ordained priests and help them in any way we can. God bless.