Why I Quit – Part 3: Philosophies

Why I Quit – Part 3: Philosophies

When I was hired by a local parish as their Director for Youth & Family Ministry my husband and I registered as part of that church community. Prior to this position, I had been in diocesan ministry for 6 years which can make it difficult to be part of of single parish family since a lot of the work is done in different parishes around the diocese and often on weekends.

Jerry and I considered this job a blessing; we could finally ‘settle down’ in this new parish family. Timing was also such that Jerry would be ordained just 6 months later and we hoped that Jerry might be assigned to our church. It was a secret wish of mine that one day we might minister side-by-side, as husband and wife, especially after praying so hard for his conversion.

But, this was not to be.

Our bishop, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit (I know this in my heart), assigned Jerry to a senior living center where he works side-by-side with the chaplain. Jerry is there 4 days a week after his full-time secular job and he assists the chaplain at every Sunday morning Mass and prepares homilies every other week.

Jerry thrives in this ministry. I have been blessed to hear of his good works through other people involved in this same ministry. Not only is he able to minister to the residents, he makes himself available to an overworked and stressed out staff.

Can you tell how proud I am of my husband?!

Now, a few things to note:

  • My marriage comes before anything else – job, ministry, etc.
  • We hold that Sunday is sacred – after Mass, Jerry and I go out for brunch and then treat Sunday as God intended… a day of rest, reflection, and recreation.
  • I will always attend Mass with my husband. Since he is assisting at the altar, I sit alone but my heart is with him in the sanctuary. If he is giving a homily, I pray for him while he’s at the ambo asking God to give him a strong and unwavering voice, wisdom in his words, and courage to speak truth (and not forget what he’s prepared… unless the Holy Spirit has other plans.)

Apply all of this to my job as a youth minister in a parish where my husband is not assigned and it presents an internal conflict for me.

When I held the diocesan position as Coordinator for Youth & Young Adult Ministry I would often be consulted by pastors looking to hire parish youth minister about the type of person they should look for. A non-negotiable was an active, registered parishioner; someone that would worship at Sunday Mass with their parish family. This scenario not only sets a good example for youth and their parents, it also builds trust that relationships need… and youth ministry is 100% relational.

Jerry’s assignment at the senior living center cause a duality in my heart. How do I continue to minister to those on Sunday when I cannot attend Mass with them?

Some parishioner had their own thoughts:

  • Attend Mass twice – this would mean leaving my family on Sunday evenings to return to the church. Not an option since I hold Sunday sacred for my family.
  • Become a catechist and teach middle school or high school on Sunday evenings – again, this means leaving my family to return to work.
  • Attend Mass on Saturday night – no. I was already starting to feel the burn out. Saturday was my day to attend to family and housework and it was the only thing keeping me sane.

What many of these good meaning people didn’t see was that I WAS at the parish on many, many weekends running retreats, fundraising, and other events.

I tried to make things work, to compromise. I would go to Mass with Jerry when I could but other times, attend with our parish. There were times that I went twice; in the morning with Jerry and in the evening at the parish – sometimes Saturday night, sometimes Sunday. But, the longer this went on, the stronger the internal struggle became. I gave so much to our parish (which was necessary) but with only so many hours in the day, this took away from my family and from my marriage. So, I began to let go of the ideal of attending Mass at the parish. I started to give God and my husband 100% of my Sundays.

But, I was waiting… waiting for the day when I would hear those words, “We never see you at Mass”.

Anxiety began to set in and I started to dread the weekends when didn’t have a retreat or event at the parish. Fear and depression led to burnout. Only my closest friends, spiritual director, and husband knew of the conflict in my heart. Integrity is very important to me and internally I felt that I was not attending to my job as I should have been.

Then, it happened.

During a parish meeting that I was helping facilitate a member of our team suggested that anyone in my paid position should be more visible at all parish functions and most importantly, at Mass.

I did the best I could to keep a happy face, agree with what was said (because I did), and tried to fumble an explanation. But, the suggestion was spot on. It was now out in the open. The elephant in the room was visible.

Now, how do I move forward?

In order to find balance, to keep Sundays sacred, and to minister to my primary vocation – my marriage – only one solution aligned with my beliefs: to quit this parish ministry that I loved so much. Stepping down also allowed the parish to begin the task of rehiring someone who could enter fully into the liturgical life of the parish, to be a visible disciple and mentor for young people and their families.

While the decision was very difficult, it was one that allowed me to bow out with integrity, attend to my marriage, and begin healing that I didn’t realize I needed.

Praise God, our marriage is stronger than ever and we are able to live Sunday as sacred… together!

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” St. Pope John Paul II

Pray for me as I pray for you.

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