Saturday, May 25, 2013

Clerical reassignments in the diocese hit home

It was around 10:00AM this morning that I got the e-mail. It was sent at around 10 PM last night. It was a note from one of my brother Aspirants, Scott Maentz, congratulating me on our new pastor at St. Patrick Church. Until I opened that e-mail, I didn't know we were getting a new pastor. We have only had our current pastor, Father Joseph Hammond, CHS, for a little over three years, although he had been our Associate for a much longer period of time.

Father Joseph, CHS

Early last month on this very blog, I wrote that several of us in the Aspirant community were aware of a series of priestly reassignments in the Diocese of Knoxville that would soon be upon us, and that indeed because of these reassignments some would have to change spiritual directors. Others would be very directly impacted because they would be seeing a change in pastor. I did not know then that Father Joseph would be among those reassigned to new ministries...I don't know whether Father Joseph knew by then or not, and that is, of course, absolutely none of my business.

I do know that I would not be in the deaconate formation program today, approaching candidacy if God and the bishop are willing, were it not for Father Joseph. Every potential Aspirant must have a letter of recommendation from their pastor. We have to have certain other letters of recommendation as well, and it probably doesn't hurt to have a couple of extra, which I did. Father Joseph is the one which contents I do not know, but I know he wrote it because I could not have been accepted without it. That is the one recommendation every man in the class must have, and it humbles me greatly that I received Father Joseph's good word.

I was humbled because Father Joseph seemed to keep a certain distance from many in the parish, and I think this may have been because some parishioners moaned and complained that they could not understand him (this was, as a matter of personal observation, because some people didn't want to take the time to understand him better). Yet Father Joseph had enough trust and confidence in me to recommend me for deaconate formation, and for that will be eternally honored and grateful to him. I am sorry to see him go, primarily because I think that he is a living example of Christ's humility that our parish continues to be in very sore need of. He was doing all of us a great deal more good than he may have realized. I will say that in going back into what appears to be full time ministry with the Hispanic community, Father Joseph is returning to a ministry where he has many talents and gifts and where it is known that those gifts are deeply appreciated. He and his ministry will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers in the years ahead.

So now we will have a new pastor. He's visited St. Pat's before and many parishioners know who he is, and some know him better.

Father Patrick Brownell

A great many have known that Father Patrick has served our country as a chaplain for our military personnel. Many of us have prayed for him in that vitally important role. Now he'll be joining my parish  family as our new pastor. I have not had the privilege to come to know Father Patrick in the way that some others in our diocese have, but I have never heard anything but good about him, and I know that he has visited St. Pat's before in the time that I have been a member there. It is my prayer, however, that I will come to know him, I hope well, and I hope that he will pray for me in my formation as I strive to help him in his new pastoral ministry through prayer, and in whatever meager way that I might serve. I am praying that we might be able to develop a relationship that can bear fruit for God's Kingdom for many years to come.

As I wrote last month, the reassignment of priests, and sometimes even of deacons, is a reality of life in the Church, and people who are active in the Church know this, but it doesn't always make it easy on the clergy or the parishioners involved. We should pray for both Father Joseph and Father Patrick, and try to make it as easy and as welcoming for Father Patrick as we can, and to remember that he will be our shepherd. Let us strive for a spirit of joyful obedience to him as he follows God's will in coming to us.


  1. What a shock for you! And why do they wait until practically the last minute to let us know who, one of the very most important persons in our lives, our pastors, will be?!!

    Let me tell you that I think you will like Father Patrick Brownell a lot. I haven't been around him very much, but he seems to be a very kind, quiet, gentle, and holy man. My brief experience with him, when he heard my confession at a penance service, years ago, was that he made me feel that I had been in the presence of the Lord Jesus. I was absolutely overwhelmed by this.

    I think he will like you a lot too, especially when he finds out how hard you are working, as an aspirant to the deaconate, and how very good you are at the work that you do! He will, no doubt, be appreciative of your great humility!

    This is one of those changes in life that it's difficult to pray about and simply put into the hands of our Lord, but that is what you need to do. We will be praying about this for you too.

  2. Yes, I was shocked by the announcement of Father Joseph's departure, though I have now had time for it to settle in and time to reflect on it.

    I do not know if Father Joseph asked for reassignment or if he was asked to go, but when I spoke to him he seemed to have a great peace about it. I am praying for a good relationship with Father Patrick, but also that when we say goodbye to Father Joseph that we really give him the royal sendoff!