Fr. Alan Yost, SJ assigned to Ireland
St. Leo vicar Fr. Alan Yost has been assigned to Ireland. He will be leaving St. Leo in January. Fr. Elias Puentes, SJ will join St. Leo in January. Fr. Alan gives the following regards to the community.
As you have heard by now, my ministry here at St. Leo Parish is to be a rather short one. My provincial has approved plans for me to go to Ireland for two years starting in January 2019 to minister in whatever way the Irish provincial sees fit.
While I am very excited at this prospect, the main thing I want to convey is that my departure is in no way a negative reflection on the great people of St. Leo. This has truly been a year of transition for St. Leo and you already have much adjustment to make in the coming months. But the possibility of moving to Ireland was in development before I arrived. And if we’re honest, the possibility of being moved is always there for us Jesuits. We seek to find God’s will in all things and all the time. If anything, my time here in Tacoma has made my discernment more difficult. People here have been tremendously welcoming, supportive, and patient with me, and many have taken me under their wings. That’s the St. Leo way. I deeply appreciate that.
But we are dealing with the classic Ignatian conundrum required for discernment – of two good possibilities, which one feels most like God’s will? In a paradoxical way this is a blessing. It means there’s room for the Holy Spirit in our lives. If there were only one good option, there would be no room for discernment. No good person discerns, for example, between parish ministry and bank robbery.
Many may wonder why Ireland, one of the most Catholic countries in the world. The more suspicious among you might think it’s because I love Guinness – in reality, I don’t. (Don’t tell the Irish I said that.) The fact is that if we think the US is suffering from a vocation shortage, Ireland in recent years has been suffering a crisis. It seems odd that they should be in such dire need of priests and religious, when for so many generations Ireland has been a country that has sent Catholic priests and religious abroad to the rescue of the Church in need in so many parts of the world, not least in the United States. Perhaps the crisis is felt even more strongly there since it had been so Catholic for so long. While Ireland was never officially a theocracy, the Church and the state there were so intricately intertwined and the Church there was so powerful, that for all intents and purposes, it might as well have been. This is quite alien to us Americans, who so prize the constitutional separation of Church and State as we do.
What I have learned from my recent trip to Ireland and from my reading is that the Church in Ireland must finally learn to be less an autocratic Church and more a listening and serving Church, just as Pope Francis has been telling us from the beginning of his pontificate. The American Church and the Society of Jesus in the United States may not be perfect at this listening and serving, but my experience is that we have something we can offer the Irish Church in this regard. Perhaps now, in their hour of need, it’s time to come to their rescue, to pay back the people of Ireland for the amazing generosity they have shown the Catholic world over the centuries. I hope my time there will do that in some small way for the people I get the chance to know and work with. No doubt I, too, will learn a great deal in the process.
My assignment in Ireland is still to be determined, but my assignment here is in no way over. I still have about seven months with you wonderful people. I’m also delighted to get to work with our new pastor, my friend and Jesuit brother Matt Holland, for much of that time, and to help you welcome him as you have done for me. As of January, I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you with your own plans to visit the Emerald Isle, to experience some of its own version of hospitality, and in turn to show them a thing or two about the charisms for which St. Leo is so well known.
Go raibh maith agaibh, a chairde! (Thank you, friends!)
Alan G. O. Yost, SJ