Sunday, July 31, 2022



‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.

It may sound a bit pious, but I believe in the depths of my being that I do have a “vocation,” a “call” from God to be a priest and to be that priest wherever God puts me. Most, maybe all, of my assignments as a priest have not been in places that I would have chosen for myself. Looking back, I feel like I was being “sent” there!

When I was ordained in 1970, I had spent my whole life in rural areas. I grew up in Rhodelia. When I decided to go to the seminary, I was sent to high school and two years of college in a rural setting outside the city of Louisville. We rarely saw the insides of Louisville during the six years I was there. After that, I was sent to St. Meinrad Seminary in the countryside of southern Indiana. After twelve years of seminary formation “in the country” and hearing about “city life,” I had my heart set on being assigned to a city parish where I could take advantage of its nice restaurants, movie theatres and “things to do” that I had always heard about! Instead, I was sent to the five-county home missions down along the Tennessee border. After ten years there, I was sent to Calvary, a small rural community outside of Lebanon, Kentucky. Finally, to my complete surprise and deep fear, I was finally called and sent to Louisville to be pastor of the Cathedral. After that I felt called to be a vocation director, a campus minister at Bellarmine University, a seminary department head, an international priest retreat director, a weekly columnist for The Record and finally a missionary in the Caribbean. I don’t think I really sought to do most of those things. Most of them seemed to fall accidently into my lap.

I have always felt that God was behind every one of those assignments - pre-retirement and post-retirement. I feel that most of them were the result of my being led to do them, or sent to do them, rather than something I initially thought of doing on my own.

When I was getting ready to retire, it occurred to me out of nowhere that maybe I could start a program for retired priests like myself who wanted to serve either in the missions of Alaska during the summer if they liked to fish or hunt or maybe in the missions of the Caribbean in the winter if they wanted to escape the cold winters up here in the United States. The problem was, I didn’t know anyone in the Alaskan missions or the Caribbean missions. Then one morning, as I was eating breakfast alone at the seminary, I looked up and there getting his breakfast was a visiting bishop from the Caribbean countries of Barbados and St. Vincent. We were the only ones in the cafeteria.

I left the cafeteria without introducing myself, turned around and went back, introduced myself and a few months later I was flying down to volunteer in his two Caribbean countries - Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It seemed like an accident on one hand and like I was being sent by a higher power on the other.

I made twelve missionary trips to the Caribbean altogether. Then COVID hit and the volcano on the island of St. Vincent erupted causing me to have to quit and look for another ministry closer to home. I almost felt that I was being sent home for another purpose, but I didn’t know what it could be!

After fretting a couple of weeks about what to do next, I was tossing and turning one night when, all of a sudden, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had the feeling that I was being sent back home to see what I could do for my own home parishes of St. Theresa and St. Mary Magdalen. It even occurred to me that I might get some good retired priests to volunteer their gifts and talents to help Father George at St. Theresa and St. Mary instead of Alaska and the Caribbean. Slowly, the dream of a new Family Life Center to serve both communities came into focus during the following few months.

Thinking back, I realized that I had been wrestling with the question of “what will I leave behind” when “my life is demanded of me” as the gospel today puts it. As the gospel put it, I have never desired to be “rich for my own good,” but “rich in want matters to God.” Here is what stood out in today’s gospel when I read it.

You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.

My tombstone, already in place in St. Theresa Cemetery, sums up my life as I have lived it out these past 52 years. Summarizing my 52 years as a priest, it says at the top: “Simply Amazed – Forever Grateful.” About my future as a priest, it says at the bottom: “Home at Last.” I want to come home when this is all over! I am grateful for the wonderful experiences that God has offered me over the last 52 years and I am amazed that I have been able to say “yes” to those experiences! I believe that God is now sending me “back home” to finish up!

One of the main donors to our Family Life Center project said something very interesting about what I am trying to do with the time I have left. She “gets it.” She knows that I am more interested in “growing rich in what matters to God,” than “storing up treasures for myself” because she is interested in the same things. She is a woman who understands the words of Jesus when he said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” She is amazingly generous in sharing what she has with programs that “matter to God,” including our project! She said this about our project when I asked her to continue to help us through the present inflation crisis. “I will help and together with others your legacy will be achieved! Keep the faith!”

What caught my eye was her use of the word “legacy.” A “legacy” is what you leave behind. The poor man in the gospel story never thought about the possibility of dying. He was too fixated on accumulating riches for himself, instead of riches in what matters to God! At 78, I have been thinking a lot about my “legacy,” what I can leave behind! I will not be able to leave behind great wealth. I am not leaving any children behind. What I want to leave behind is something that will strengthen the families of St. Theresa and St. Mary Magdalen parishes where I got such a great start in life growing up. In my last years, now that I have shared my talents with other countries around the world, I want to focus my energy on building our new Family Life Center and share my talents there as I build my “legacy!”

What about you? What do you want to leave behind? What do you want your “legacy” to be? Are you more interested in storing up treasure for yourself or being rich in what matters to God? Your “legacy” cannot be built in a few days or months or years. It has to be built over a lifetime! A ‘legacy” is not about money. It’s about whether, at the end, you have lived for yourself or lived for others! Your “legacy” is about how you will be remembered! Will you be remembered as a pathetic hoarder of your gifts and talents or a generous sharer of your gifts and talents? You can start building your “legacy” now by turning outward toward others, rather than inward toward yourself! Don’t be like that “fool” that Jesus talked about who thought he could “take his precious stored-up wealth with him when he died,” rather than leaving something behind, rather than giving something back, so as to better the lives of those he left behind! When it’s all said and done, will there be anyone to even care whether you lived or died?

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