From Fr. David’s Desk
Dear Friends in Christ,
Being a pastor of a community, it won’t surprise you one bit to learn that occasionally, but thankfully not often, I receive a complaint or criticism letter in the mail. Admittedly I, like probably most people, can become a little defensive when presented with such uncomfortable letters; but, as I mentioned just last Sunday in my homily, I do in all sincerity try to transform these rough situations into moments of pastoral learning and growth. Make lemonade out of lemons, as the saying goes.
In considering complaint letters, I always appreciate when folks exhibit courage and integrity by including a full name and a mailing address. All too frequently however they do not, and I am left with no opportunity to respond. (Even a first name does not suffice, considering I don’t know everyone’s first name, and furthermore since so many people share similar first names.) I am one who takes these letters seriously, and I am grateful when I can enter into a dialogue with folks about their concerns, particularly regarding my pastoral performance. But when a letter is written anonymously and without a return address, I am tempted to not consider it at all (even though I do nevertheless.) After all, if someone does not trust me enough as a spiritual father to not empower me with a clear means of responding, then why should I bother? In these cases I often ask myself if a response on my part, as heartfelt as I could make it, would even help.
Naturally I admit that I, as famously quoted by President Abraham Lincoln, “cannot please everyone all of the time.” No one can. At the same time I do desire to be the most effective pastor that I can be, an important part of which is having an open ear to the complaints, criticisms, and other concerns of my flock. I do believe I have that open ear most of the time. Therefore I want to encourage you to feel that you can approach me with a genuine issue about either my pastoral performance or the parish in general. However, if you do so, please first come speak to me in person; we all know that is always best. If you cannot get to me in person or feel you must write a letter, then by all means do so; but please have the decency and grace to include a full name and a return address. And NEVER send someone else to do your dirty work for you! That goes against the Gospel and our Christian values. (see Matthew 18:15-17 and Matthew 7:12.)
Finally, remember that I, like my cute little dachshund Maggie, do not bite!
Enjoy these beautiful summer days!
Sincerely in Christ,
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