Some are curious as to 'real reason' I left St. Peter 8 months ago. I already shared the reason honestly, but apparently there are further 'rumors'. More importantly, being notified of the death of Bishop Sirba of Duluth (I wonder how much of his heart was congenital versus caused by the stress of being a good bishop in the midst of such hard times). Then I read of Bishop Conley of Lincoln being open about his struggles and stepping away from ministry for time to heal. These reminded me that we all, even priests and bishops, need to be 'selfish' at times and ask for both prayers and help.
Especially as ministers of Christ, the Lord wants us to be healed and healthy so that we can lead others to Him without getting in the way. We become opaque and do not let the Lord shine through us as a transparent means if our health, whether physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual, is not being attended. We are going to be poor ministers, the less healthy we are, the more opaque we become. If we take care of these needs, we will be humble ministers who are able to be responsive to the Lord's will and lead others. That's something I have a more profound understanding of because of the last years.
I needed to step away. There were a number of stressors present during my nearly 6 year assignment in St. Peter. Due to a number of factors, I was not taking much time off and took no vacations. The parish faced high budget deficit which was beginning to grow out of control. The church building mortgage had little plan for payment. There were a number of staff concerns. Then there were a slew of baseless rumors. To be honest, it was these continued baseless and ultimately outlandish rumors and innuendoes that threw me over the top. I was to the point of defensiveness. I was not responding well to additional stressors, and they kept coming.
When Bishop LeVoir invited me to go for an extended mental health break starting after Easter, I accepted the opportunity immediately. An evaluation that was part of this time determined that I was incredibly stressed and almost to burnout. My otherwise good coping mechanisms (prayer, good diet, and daily exercise) had not been sufficient. Because I had not been taking care of my needs as fully as I should have, I needed to take more time off (not only by extending my stay then, but also continue to take time off as I returned). It also became clear that I was not the one to bring resolution to all the challenges that the parish faced. Suffice it to say that it is easier to establish new patterns in a new location and to bring in someone new with fresh eyes for the Parish.
Truthfully, there is nothing more to share.
In the last weeks, I have been approached by several (people who are not from St. Peter but knew me from other assignments) who are concerned about some continuing rumors they have heard. I am trying not to be defensive or to sin by trying to protect my reputation - That's not mine to protect or defend anymore. There is no truth to the rumors, at least the ones that have made it to me. I am grateful that people have the courage to address them to the source before spreading them!!! We need more of this.
We need to realize that not every rumor is true, and the few elements of rumors that are true are often much more nuanced that people think or want to believe. There are people that love to start or spread rumors, either because they know the 'truth' or because they despise the other person (though they may not say this as bluntly). Having a tantalizing bit of gossip makes them feel important, but sharing it shows how really insignificant they make themselves to be.
We will be held accountable for our words by the Lord. Gossip is a sinful two-pronged fork, depending on whether what is shared is true or false. Sharing the truth about someone's sins or illegal activities with someone who has no need to know is detraction (and we are obligated to share proof with legitimate authorities). Sharing mistruths, even while think they are true, of someones' short fallings is calumny. Both are sins. People have a right to their good reputation, unless by a consistent pattern have hurt it - so we should not be quick to share anything that is hurtful. If there is doubt whether the other person has the right to know, DO NOT share it!
I like the acronym THINK for dealing with gossip - Is is True? Helpful (versus hurtful)? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? If not, keep it to yourself or better yet, forget it.
Imagine what we could be like if we, instead of gossiping about another's failing, prayed for each other? What if we truly showed concern and kindness for each other instead of tearing them down or sharing lies to get our way? What if, instead of using 'evidence' of failures or crimes, we kept quiet with all others who have no need to know, at least at the time? What if we emphasized the positives in each other instead? What if we sought to speak only the helpful and inspiring things that are needed? What if we truly THINK before spreading gossip?