Hitting the Reset Button

Finding areas of growth in the new year

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Bonnar (new)When I was in grade school, my parents signed me up for a bowling league. Every Saturday morning, I would go to the bowling alley and help my team win. I have no idea how this happened as my parents were not bowlers. I think they wanted my older brother and me to learn the value of teamwork and meet new people outside of school and our neighborhood. I found the whole experience to be exciting and invigorating.

Bowling became another classroom of sorts. In addition to learning the importance of teamwork, I came to appreciate the whole idea of focus and consistently following a certain progression that culminates with the release of the bowling ball. I also came to see the need for practice to hone my skills. The goal each week was to help the team win, but also to improve my bowling average. Every week, I wanted to get better. I found great support in those around me who shared that same drive.

Life is about getting better. Like wine that ages over time and develops a savory taste, so it is with us as men of God. We are to aspire to be better every day. I believe one of my many tasks as bishop is to encourage members of the presbyterate and our entire ministerial staff to be better. Of course, this begins with me, as I need to practice what I preach.

Anyone who has bowled knows that sometimes a pin gets stuck, or the ball does not return. In these cases, there is a button that one presses to reset the pin alignment and automatic ball return. On rare occasions, an employee would have to intervene to correct the issue. Technology was not perfect back then.

January is an opportune time for every priest, even if he is not a bowler, to hit the reset button in the hopes of being and becoming better. During our recent multiday clergy convocation, I shared with our men that it is hard to be a priest today for many reasons. Increasing expectations and demands, coupled with fewer priests means a heavy workload. We all want to be available and approachable to meet the needs of the faithful. And we do our best in this regard whatever the cost. Often, the cost in these cases is our prayer life and personal wellness. Quite simply, to meet the demands of ministry, prayer, spiritual direction, reading, annual retreat, a weekly day off and regular exercise can fall by the wayside. In these situations, we face the possibility of losing ourselves. Inevitably, as in the case of bowling, there is a breakdown that necessitates hitting the reset button.

The act of hitting that button for us priests is a matter of becoming more intentional about self-care and self-awareness. It also means being more attentive to finding that healthy balance between work and rest, serving others but also taking care of oneself.

One clear way to hit the reset button is to revert to something many of us did during our seminary formation — namely, establish a growth plan with objectifiable and measurable goals. This could all be completed under the four pillars of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. No doubt there are many opportunities for growth in these areas. What is more, there are many resources to realize goals for growth in these areas. Even if we commit ourselves to focusing on just one of those pillars, it can make a difference in our vocation and ministry.

In my diocese, there is a growing Hispanic population. During this past year, I have been studying Spanish with a private instructor so that one day I can celebrate Holy Mass in Spanish. This has been for me a pastoral goal I have embraced to make my outreach as bishop better. I confess that it is a work in progress, but it is a concerted attempt to grow for the good of the Church.

Some years ago, I committed myself to a monthlong mini-sabbatical. It was another way to hit the reset button. Every year is different. And yet, every year the hope is that we will grow and become better. In what area of your life and ministry is God calling you to become better? Don’t be afraid to hit the reset button.

BISHOP DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

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