So THIS is the Thanks I Get?

Joseph Paprocki

Each experience – as painful as they were – led to a greater opportunity to learn and to grow as a catechetical minister and to meet so many wonderful people along the way.

I’ve been “shown the door” twice in my over 40 years of pastoral ministry: once after 9 years teaching at a Catholic High School (that was abruptly closed by the Archdiocese) and once after 7 years at a parish (let go by the pastor I personally encouraged to take the job). Both times, I found myself at a very low point, feeling not only down, but also bitter: “So THIS is the thanks I get for pouring my heart out for very little pay?” My anger was directed not only at the Church, but also at God.

I came very close to leaving ministry and instead pursuing a career in retail pharmacy, since I grew up in a family pharmacy. However, in the midst of one of those dark moments and in the dead of a cold Chicago winter, I had to fulfill a commitment to do an adult faith formation event one evening at a local parish. I put on my best face and figured I would just “phone it in” so I could get back home to cry in my pillow.

Several hours later, my wife – who had waited up for me, expecting me to come home an emotional mess – greeted me at the door, took one look at my face and asked, “what happened?” I was beaming and full of energy! I told her that I had the most marvelous experience of sharing faith with God’s people and concluded, “I have to stay in this! Where else am I going to have an experience like I had tonight?” I renewed my commitment to finding a way to serve in ministry and to “make it work” for me and my family.

Each experience – as painful as they were – led to a greater opportunity to learn and to grow as a catechetical minister and to meet so many wonderful people along the way. Now, decades later, I find myself at a place in my ministerial career, where I feel called to support the young people coming up behind me in ministry, as they face similar, if not more difficult challenges than I faced, knowing that God will help them find a way!