On Being ‘Home Alone,’ & Fears of Missing the Mark: The iconic photo of the young boy Kevin McAllister (from the Christmas movie Home Alone) pictures Macaulay Culkin with both hands clasping his cheeks—wide-eyed & mouth agape at discovering bungling burglars trying to access his home; & is an apt visual metaphor for the surprise & shock that I experienced here this past summer.
The transfer of Fr. Brian came with precious little warning & it being followed by the archdiocese assigning Fr. Sean here for only 2 summertime months & then reassigning him without any vicar replacement for this parish of 3500 households is beyond shocking to me; & it leaves me with a genuine sense of bewilderment, especially when there are parishes smaller than ours that nonetheless have multiple priests living in their rectories & helping in their smaller parishes.
Visi had 4 priests living in its rectory (not too long ago there were 6 priests here); that number was cut to 2 priests when I arrived & now it has been cut again to only me. Despite the mathematical subtraction aforementioned, there remains an enduring sentiment that there is still an abundance of priests living/serving here. Some of what is behind a persistent mindset of not mentally adjusting for the stark reality of the present situation is an old world mentality that is fortified by a pre-Vatican II theology—akin to the notion of, but we’ve always done it this way! Knowing that things have changed here dramatically requires of us that we alter expectations about having constantly convenient & always readily available pastoral service, to which we’d become very accustomed over very many years.
Nowhere does this concern me more than with the administration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Many of our folks still seem to view this sacrament as Extreme Unction, something that is not called for until a loved one is literally on death’s door. It is only the Last Rites when a person’s death is imminent, & then an Apostolic Pardon is added. Please do not wait until your loved one’s last moments to call for a priest, as the likelihood is now increased with only 1 priest here that they could die without benefit of the sacraments. Whether at home or in hospital or nursing center—please be prudent & make plans for this sooner.