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My White Collar Job: Weekly Message for 10-23-2018
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last June I participated in a 5K at my parish (St. Brendan the Navigator, Cumming, GA), and I wanted the parishioners to know I was participating with them, but thought wearing my clerical shirt would be overkill. So I found a t-shirt on a website with a picture of a Roman Collar and the phrase, “I love my white collar job.” It was a hit. I also kept my pledge that no one else would finish last in the 5K (because it was me; I walked it). That same t-shirt website had some snide and nasty shirts about priests as well. I was a Legionary brother in formation doing youth work in 2002 when the Boston Globe exposed the scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston. I took a group of boys from Louisiana and Florida to visit our minor seminary in New Hampshire, and we stopped at a McDonald’s in Boston. As a seminarian I was in Roman collar. Nothing happened, but afterwards I wondered what people thought of me when they saw that collar. I knew they’d never look at it in the same way again.
I’ve been working as a part-time associate pastor over the last year, and as a result I am usually out and about in my clerical shirt, since emergency sick calls come no matter where you are. One employee in a Walmart said she’d never seen a priest come into the store (she probably hadn’t seen one in collar) and was happy I was there. At a Publix supermarket someone seemed surprised I was doing my own shopping. People have asked curiosity questions and, years ago, waiting in the airport for a flight, someone in true need for Confession came up to me and asked just because I was wearing the collar. I see the importance of being “on duty” and wearing the collar shows that, just like any other profession that requires a uniform.
As the recent scandals were revealed in July/August I was mostly “off duty,” visiting family and vacationing. It was a good time to process everything that happened (as of this writing I am still trying to process it all). It made me think twice about going out in collar, but, thankfully, I resisted that temptation, because although that collar may now be an object of mistrust and scandal for some, it is still a sign of hope and an open invitation to think of God. If there’s one vocation we all have in common it is the call to holiness, and that goes much deeper than wardrobe.
At the end of August the parish staff celebrated my birthday. They took the picture of me in t-shirt from the 5K and put it on the cover of my birthday card, writing underneath, “…and it shows.”
I still love my white collar job, and I love all of you too.
May we all help each other to grow in holiness, always.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.