Herald of Hope

In our part of the world, the four seasons are fairly predictable. Winter brings blizzards and freezing temperatures. Spring brings the promise of fresh starts and the initial hint of summer’s future flowers. Even the burst of severe storms this year doesn’t undo the basic pattern.

The Catholic liturgical year also brings its seasons of fresh starts in Advent and the offer of renewal in Lent. Christmas reminds us of God’s fleshly presence in our human history and Easter trumpets a future existence beyond our wildest dreams, and eternal at that! Each season brings its own promise of growth and offers its own grace.

Now that the glorious days of Pentecost have been completed, we’re back wandering amid the days called Ordinary Time, which isn’t really ordinary because God remains at work in all the events which fill our days and weeks at this time of the year. Anywhere God might be at work isn’t ordinary at all. Call each season what we will, and offer some sort of label, it always offers an opportunity to reflect on the wonder of God at work in our worlds, individual and personal as well as collective.

I really enjoy taking my turn at writing this column. The occasions are fewer than in past years, probably reflecting my own advancing years in retirement, but they each arrive in proper sequence. The due date forces some personal reflection on the world I inhabit at the moment.

Formal retirement from the duties of being a bishop in the local Church, requested by the Church’s universal canon law at the age of 75, has been a wonderful blessing. The sharp focus for the canonical retirement is from administrative responsibilities, not from ministry as such.

I continue to celebrate the Eucharist, whether at the parish of Old Saint Mary’s, where I live across the street from the Milwaukee City Hall, or at some other location caught in a moment of need or for an occasion for parish celebration.

Most weekends find me at the central residence for retired Franciscan sisters immediately adjacent to Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in the city of St. Francis. That community cared for the domestic needs of the seminary for decades, and I feel as if I owe them an enormous debt of personal gratitude from my years of residence there. Several residents at the convent were faculty members of the former Cardinal Stritch University. Preaching to that community is a challenge, but also a privilege. They are extraordinary women of the Church.

Formal retirement from archdiocesan administration is a great gift, as any retired person in the larger society knows. The ability to politely decline an invitation when the schedule becomes too burdensome is also a reminder that living in God’s Kingdom is the fundamental task of life, no matter what number of years one might calculate (88 in my case) or decades one might number.