Last month I announced on my social media that, after taking some months of sabbatical to be with family and to dedicate more time to prayer and retreat, I had decided to ask the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to release me from the duties and responsibilities of the clerical state (priestly vows).
Taking that step was something I had considered often and at length in years past and discussed with my spiritual guides. While I loved and thrived in so many aspects of my ministry, deep in my interior I struggled for years with my vocation and with the commitments the Catholic priesthood demands, especially not being able to marry and have a family.
This week marks another step on this journey. I will be interviewed by Martha McCallum on Monday on “The Story” at 7 pm ET about my decision to leave the priesthood.
This comes after my former superior, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, graciously helped me through the first steps of the dispensation process. Upon my request, he has officially suspended my exercise of sacred ministry.
This is why I will do the interview in suit and tie rather than in clerical garb. Today I practiced tying a tie for the first time in twenty-five years. I found out that tying a tie is a lot like riding a bike…you never forget.
I am doing this interview because I want you to hear directly from me in the forum where some of you have seen me for the last fourteen years.
This will be a hard interview. I would be much more comfortable discussing news stories of any type other than this deeply personal decision.
Usually when Catholic priests or Protestant or Evangelical pastors leave ministry, they disappear from public life for a time from a desire to start a completely different life. A few remain very public because they have an axe to grind with God or the church they left and take on the role of insider-critics.
Personally, I have no axe to grind. My faith in God and my love for my Church is stronger than ever. And, while there is something very appealing about the thought of disappearing from the public eye, this probably isn’t what God is asking of me long-term.
The Church and the world need all of us, clergy and laity alike, to offer our very best for the common good.
In this new chapter of my life, I won’t be rejecting my past, but rather taking what I have lived and learned, the good and the bad, and using that experience as I take on this new challenge.
The coming months will be full of change for me.
First, I will take some more time for rest and retreat as I finish my sabbatical. Then I will begin the task of discerning next steps in my professional life.
This will involve not only a decision of what industry to pursue, but also where to live.
My parents and siblings are advocating for the Midwest where most of them live. Being close to them would be a huge blessing!
As daunting as all of this change is, I am reminded often in prayer that the most important thing in my life has not changed. As a friend recently wrote to me, “You’re still working for the same boss!”
The same God who was by my side as a priest is by my side today and will be forever. This is my time to trust in Him like I have never had to do before.
For years I have preached and even written books on waiting in peace for God’s perfect plan and timing. Now I have a chance to live it! Would you say a prayer for me?