Two minutes can change a life. In an emergency medical situation, two minutes can save a life. But can two minutes erase a quarter-century of a person’s life and commitment to serving and caring for his community and those entrusted to his care? I hope not.
I am a Catholic priest and the pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Newport in Charlotte Hall, and as reported elsewhere in this newspaper and on its website, I lost my temper at a moment when anger was the most inappropriate response to those people entrusted to my care at that moment of ministry.
Before the start of a funeral Mass on Wednesday, June 27, one of the guests in the church damaged a sacred chalice used for the Mass. The sight of that accident made my frustration boil over. My anger spilled out in a torrent. I uttered words I never use, and treated people I have lived with and committed my life to serve in an unacceptable manner. Instead of care and compassion for the grieving family and friends, my focus turned to anger.
The man who canceled this family’s funeral and dispatched them in anger, is not the man who hours before worked to minister to their needs in a time of grief. Instead of lifting them up, I let them down. For the anger and embarrassment I caused to that family, I am profoundly sorry.
My vocation as a Catholic priest is not merely a job or a career. My calling to Catholic priesthood is but the summit of a life lived in service to those in need, who feel lost or are abandoned, those who are vulnerable. For more than 25 years, I have lived to offer my hand to countless men, women and children who could not speak for themselves. I have sought to serve as an advocate, a voice on behalf of others. I remain a person whose deep desire to serve others is firmly rooted in my heartfelt desire to serve our Lord.
Some might dismiss these words, given the tenor of the words I uttered before the funeral that was to take place on Wednesday. That is a just part of the consequence I will bear for my behavior. Like all human beings, I, too, am broken in nature, make mistakes and, yes, I fail. My life has been, is now, and prayerfully will always be, a life in which my daily words and deeds exemplify the Gospel message. My most recent actions do not reflect who I am as a priest. I have spent much of my life working to lessen the challenges and ease the burden of people whose lives are heavy with struggles. I understand that my recent actions have now added a burden to their lives — a sad consequence that I must confront and for which I take responsibility.
My recent actions and words were not borne of kindness, but a failure of my vow to serve the Lord and those entrusted to my care as a person and as priest. I am profoundly sorry for my words and actions. I pray for all in this community every day, and I can only ask that you pray for me, but also for other priests and ministers, and all who seek to serve those who suffer and struggle as we strive to build up the kingdom of God.