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,

Fr. David


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