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“Ask a Priest: What If I’ve Been Blackballed From Parish Ministry?”
Q: For over 10 years I was active as an adult altar server, reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in my parish. About seven years ago my then pastor badly overreached and banned me from every function on my parish’s campus except for Mass. My pastor overreacted to me admonishing another liturgical minister (and wealthy parish benefactor) for unlocking the tabernacle and leaving its door open, while no one was in the unlocked church. My action was in no way extreme or egregious. The pastor’s overreaction was stunning to those around me and devastating to me. With God’s grace, a number of trips to the confessional, the passage of time, and understanding my former pastor’s pathology (alcoholism), I have been able to forgive him. Our current pastor arrived about a year ago, and I explained what had happened and asked if I could attend other parish events and be reinstated to liturgical ministry. He said I could attend any event that any other parishioner could. But he wouldn’t give me an answer about being reinstated to ministry. He seemed very ill at ease that I would even ask. Later I checked with a friend and she confirmed that I had been effectively “blackballed” by my former pastor, and the current pastor was just following suit. All that said, I still very much long to serve in a liturgical manner. I’m not in denial – I realize I won’t be reinstated, and I realize it’s not healthy to be so attracted to something (ministering) that could be taken away as easily as it was. This is really wearing on my spiritual life. Any words of wisdom would be deeply appreciated. – M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I’m sorry to hear about the situation.
My guess is that the new pastor, like a lot of new pastors, doesn’t want to rock the boat. He probably already has a lot on his plate. So in a number of areas he might prefer to take a “safe rather than sorry” approach, based on the guidance he received from the previous pastor. This is understandable. Many priests today face more than their share of challenges.
That said, you might think of your being blackballed as a way to share more deeply in the cross of Christ. Our Lord was misunderstood (and reviled) to a far worse degree.
By offering this cross that God has allowed in your life, you can grow in humility and patience. Perhaps you might consider offering up some of this suffering for your past and present pastors. This would be an oblation pleasing to Our Lord.
And by all means, continue to take advantage of the sacraments at your parish. Your faithfulness might someday give the pastor reason to rethink his decision.
At the same time, remember that the arena for us to serve Christ is vast, much larger than liturgical service. By closing this door, at least for the time being, perhaps Our Lord is inviting you to explore other options.
To that end, you might find it useful to watch The Complete Christian: A Retreat Guide on the Calling of the Twelve Apostles, or read my colleague’s book Go! 30 Meditations on How Best to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.
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I think this illustrates a continuing problem in our Church. We lack transparency. Parishioners can sometimes be refused admission into some ministries for reasons unknown. A pastor should be ready to inform applicants exactly why they have been excluded.