Christ is Risen! Truly he has risen!
As everyone knows, new priest assignments were announced for Walla Walla. Fr. Ratuiste has been reassigned to the Cathedral in Spokane. Fr. Kuttner will be serving the largest parish in the diocese, St. Patrick in Pasco. In return, Fr. Esteban Soler and Fr. Tyler Smedley have been assigned to Walla Walla.
Fr. Smedley has been assigned to DeSales Catholic High School. Though he will be present to help with daily and Sunday Mass in the parishes, his proper role is to serve as chaplain, religion teacher, and part of the administrative team at our high school. Fr. Esteban Soler is a religious priest, originally for Argentina. He will be part of the regular priest rotation in the parishes.
The transition of priests is both a hard and exciting time for parish communities. It is hard because many have come to establish bonds of affection and faith with the priests who serve. It is exciting, because new (or returning faces) bring different perspectives, experiences, and abilities to our community.
There are pros and cons both to long term stability and rotation. Historically speaking, pastors were given lifetime appoints to their respective parishes. This allowed for deep and lasting relationships to form. There are priests who have been privileged to baptize and marry three generations of parishioners living in the same community. We can all imagine the blessing of having a priest friend who baptizes and marries one’s children and grandchildren.
Just as truly as a lifelong pastor can be a blessing, it is also possible for it to allow stagnation to enter into a parish community. Just like anybody, we priests can become set in our ways and overly comfortable with simply maintaining the status quo. Even more problematic, occasionally a particular priest and parish were just not a good fit for each other.
For these reasons and others, Canon Laws was changed to allow for term limits for pastors if requested by the national conference of bishops. Our bishops did just that, thus establishing a typical pastoral assignment of 6 years. Sometimes there is a formal renewal of term resulting in an additional commitment of 6 years, but more often extra years are added to an assignment on an ad hoc basis, as was the case for both Frs. Tim and Pat during their long service to our community.
Losing such strong and generous pastor’s can be very difficult. But what made them such good pastors in the first place? It was, in part, that they had each experienced previous assignments and ministries that helped them develop as spiritual fathers to their communities. So, though it is difficult to undergo these transitions, it is these very transitions that help produce the excellent priests that Walla Walla has been privileged to have over the years. Therefore, please pray especially for Frs. Ratuiste and Kuttner, that their pastoral hearts will grow through new experiences so that they will become even better priests and pastors who will serve the people of God for years to come!
Praised be Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, now and forever!