A month from tomorrow, on Friday, August 13, I will leave my post at The Church in the 21st Century Center and complete the better part of the past five years at Boston College. This change comes at my own volition. From today forward I want to begin to write about this transition as it – not begins, for that was some time ago – but as it continues and deepens and becomes more real and definitive.
I have re-discovered what we all know who ever have lived through change: that even when you choose it yourself, it’s not so easy. In the coming days I want to open up here why I am making this move and what significance I see in it. I do this not because my choices and what is happening in my life is of any great significance beyond my own little circle of family and friends, but because I believe that the life story of any one of us – of all of you! – can and does shed light on the lives of all of us.
Some of you will have already known before reading these words that I am leaving BC. But others did not. There are some to whom I have spoken face to face (how wonderfully old-fashioned) about all of this, and there are others to whom I intend to speak yet in person. These latter include one old friend in southern California. I will be at his door as soon as the airlines agree that a reasonable fare Boston to LA is possible this summer!
I am and always will be enormously grateful to have been at Boston College at all. I owe that opportunity first of all to William P. Leahy, SJ, the president of the university who took a chance on me as I left ministry at Sacred Heart in my hometown of Lynn and introduced me through BC’s able and experienced VP of Human Resources to Tom Groome in the spring of 2006. Tom Groome is a blessed force, one of the finest contributors to the life of religious education in Catholicism of this generation, a gracious and generous son of Ireland, a wonderful husband and father, a true believer through times fraught with serious challenges to faith. Tom hired me to direct continuing education at the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry part-time. That was the beginning of an amazing association with myriads of marvelously talented people here at Chestnut Hill.
Throughout this time I have tried to remain alive to discerning the ways of God in and around me. In the summer of 2005 I spent a blessed three months with the Benedictine monks of Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick, Ireland. In July of 2007, I made a 30-day Ignatian retreat at Gloucester. These are two of the primary moments in an ongoing attentiveness to where God is and what God is saying.
Over the last year, I have heard that ‘voice’ speaking in terms reminiscent of those spoken to Abram (though infinitely less grandiose): Get up, leave the place you know, and go where I will lead you.