Labor Shortage

(Homily for Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

Unemployment is a terrible social and economic problem. All of us can identify with the pain of a person out of work, especially if he has a family to support. Our empathy for the unemployed can sometimes cause us to overlook an opposite problem. In our society we face not only a job shortage, but also a labor shortage, at least in certain areas.

During the past several weeks I have become vividly aware of an area where we do not have a pool of ready workers. On May 13 my principal informed me that he was applying for a job at a parish closer to his home. My heart sank. I remembered seven years ago when we searched for a new principal. Extensive advertising turned up only one candidate. Fortunately he was young, enthusiastic and talented. He brought much needed gifts to our parish school. Now Mr. Morissette is moving on and we must look for a replacement.

In our search for a new principal I asked a few school parents, along with members of our parish and finance councils, to work with me. We have surveyed faculty, parents and parishioners, asking them to list their top priorities for a new principal. As you can imagine, people have many expectations:

  • A strong Catholic, loyal to the magisterium, who lives the faith in his daily life.

  • A compassionate, caring leader who can bridge gaps between parents and teachers, school and parish

  • Works well with the ethnic diversity.

  • Promotes academic excellent.

  • Able to use limited resources creatively.

    The list goes on. Perhaps our high expectations indicate why candidates are so few. But I believe there is another reason. When you boil it all down, what we are looking for is a shepherd. Nobody we surveyed said that they wanted a bureaucrat - you know, someone who focuses on keeping the machine well oiled. No, they want a person who cares for human beings, their families, their problems, their heartbreaks and joys. Being a shepherd demands total engagement.

    Jesus saw that the crowds were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Interestingly enough, he did not form a blue ribbon committee or do a study. Rather he told his disciples to pray. So must we. Obviously, I believe that committees and surveys have their place. But they can never replace prayer – first, foremost and always. Over the years I have seen groups generate wonderful documents which have made zero difference. At the same time I have seen people, apparently having less talent and resources, who did things which really mattered. Their secret: prayer.

    We often hear about the shortage of priests, but we face a shortage of other kinds of shepherds: those who will devote themselves to work with children and youth, as well as those with broken lives – the hospitalized, the imprisoned, the homeless, etc. These jobs will not be highly paid. Most of us do not want these careers to be lucrative. Deep down we believe that the ones who take on a shepherd’s task should do so for greater motivation than money.

    We must pray for our shepherds.* For sure, we are asking that God will send us the right person to shepherd our parish school. But, you know, sometimes we stop praying when the person assumes his task.

    In a passage that perhaps contains a bit of humor, Pope Gregory the Great spoke about the need for laborers in Lord’s harvest. While asking the people to pray for their priests, he complained that even though he had quite a few priests, he did not have many workers! Now, I doubt that St. Gregory intended his priests to become frazzled workaholics. But he did want them to focus on what was most essential: “Pray for us that we may be able to labor worthily on your behalf.” Then he added, “That we may not grow weary of exhortation.”

    As shepherds we priests must encourage and inspire others. For that reason we need the people’s prayers so that we do not become downcast, bored, tired. In the same way other shepherds need our prayers. As I hope to acknowledge next Sunday, this applies in very particular way to fathers of families. They have a unique and irreplaceable shepherding role. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send the good shepherds we so badly need. The harvest indeed is abundant, but laborers are few.


    *And pray for civic leaders who have a shepherding role. Writing shortly before Jesus' birth, the poet Virgil considered that the Romans would have a special vocation for government:

    unus qui nobis cunctando restituis rem.
    excudent alii spirantia mollius aera
    (credo equidem), uiuos ducent de marmore uultus,
    orabunt causas melius, caelique meatus
    describent radio et surgentia sidera dicent:               850
    tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
    (hae tibi erunt artes), pacisque imponere morem,
    parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.
    Others will beat out bronze more subtly into breathing likenesses, will draw living portraits from marble, will plead causes better, and will mark out with a rod the movements of the sky and document the stars as they rise. You, man of Rome, study how to rule nations with your power. These will be your arts: to enforce the discipline of peace, to show mercy to the humbled, and battle the proud to death.

    Here is Dryden's translation:

    Let others better mold the running mass
      Of metals, and inform the breathing brass,
      And soften into flesh a marble face;
      Plead better at the bar; describe the skies,
      And when the stars descend, and when they rise.
      But, Rome, 't is thine alone, with awful sway,
      To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
      Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way;
      To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free:
      These are imperial arts, and worthy thee.

    Final Version

    Spanish Version

    From Archives:

    Eleventh Sunday, Year A, 2002: How Our Bishops Failed

    Other Homilies

    Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

    Bulletin (Fr. Ed White, New Principal, Bishops Eusebio & Joseph)

    Holy Family Seattle ~ Elementary Principal Pre-8
    Job Description

    Elementary Principal Pre-8 ~ Holy Family Parish in Seattle, WA, a multicultural and heavily bilingual (English/Spanish) parish, is seeking a strong, practicing Roman Catholic leader who will be dedicated to ensuring the parish school educates and prepares students for a Christ-centered life of faith, learning and service to others. We seek a certified candidate who has teaching experience and is skilled in meeting the challenges of a diverse population. The school is very proud of its diversity (73% diversity rate in the academic year 05-06): Asian/Pacific Islanders 31%, Hispanic 21%, Caucasian 27%, Multicultural 17%, African American 3%, and Native American 1%.

    The successful candidate will possess strong knowledge of Catholic schools and have the ability to collaborate and communicate with the pastor, parents, staff and parish community to encourage support and unity within the parish and school. Communication with the overall parish is vital, and the preferred candidate will live in or near White Center and participate in the activities of both the parish and school.

    The successful candidate must have the ability and experience to manage the school budget and to creatively develop and support fundraising efforts and recruitment of new school families.

    The successful candidate will work to promote the school's philosophy statement: “Holy Family Parish School provides a Catholic Education through which each child grows in faith formation, moral guidance, academic excellence and sense of community which prepares our children to enrich the world with their talents and gifts.” Please visit for more information about Holy Family Parish & School.

    Deadline date for applications is June 14, 2005.

    Please make application to:
    Catholic Schools Department / Personnel
    910 Marion St
    Seattle, WA 98104-1299

    Send letter of interest and resume to:
    James Donohue
    Principal Search Committee Chairperson
    Holy Family Parish
    9622 20th Ave SW
    Seattle, WA 98106

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