Taking up the Pilgrim’s Staff again…

Pilgrimage-Canterbury CathedralOn Sunday, May 6th, the notice below appeared in the bulletin of the Church of the Gesu announcing my leave-taking from parish ministry in favor of a new assignment. It will involve a major focus on writing (I have five books in outline form to work on) and composing music for liturgy (besides songs I have already submitted to OCP.org, I have 29 starts in the past two years).

I wrote my provincial on Mardi Gras (!) sharing how my discernment had taken me in this direction. Reading this section from Decree 1  from our last General Congregation 36 (“Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice”) affirmed my desire deeply. It’s one of the gutsiest recognition I’ve seen anywhere.

Decree 1 from GC36, #18: The question that confronts the Society today is why the [Spiritual] Exercises do not change us do not change us as deeply as we would hope. What elements in our lives, works, or lifestyles hinder our ability to let God’s gracious mercy transform us?

I continued: This is the question/mystery I have sought to search out in my life through meditation, spiritual direction, therapy… writing, composing, and preaching, especially over the last four and a half years. This is the frontier to which I feel most drawn, to scout it out, and report back. This is what I propose to you as the deeper recognition that found me in this discernment process, Brian.

My announcement in the Gesu Bulletin:

In dialogue with my provincial, Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, and by way of my own prayerful discernment, we have determined that – beginning July 1st – I will leave parish life to pursue the ministry of composing liturgical music, writing about liturgy and spirituality, and making it more available through workshops to God’s people. He trusts that this new labor will bear fruit in many ways. I appreciate his trust.

For example, in the past four years I have submitted a large group of songs to Oregon Catholic Press for publication, have begun more, and have completed two books with another 5 already outlined. I am as grateful as I am amazed at this sustained, creative energy at this point in my life and for the backing of the Jesuit province to pursue these avenues at length with consistency and focus.

I will remain in Milwaukee to explore reconciliation in its broadest sense with the School Sisters of St. Francis, which may have something to do with the sacrament or not. What I bring to them the Sisters is a desire to delve into, with those who wish to set out on this journey, our resistance to reconcile with… God, self, family, the order, the church, the world, one’s total reality.

Toward that end, they have provided a music/study room for me at their International / U.S. Province Offices of the SSSF (Layton Blvd.) where several other Jesuit-based offices are already located.

It wasn’t easy for me to be reassigned from Gesu in 1988. It’s not easy at all to leave parish ministry – to leave you, the people of Gesu, whom I have again grown so fond of. You have blessed me in so many ways, mainly by celebrating Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance with you these four years. I ask your prayers for me in this new work ministry and for those to whom I will minister. I in turn will remember you with gratitude the rest of my life. AMDG!



  1. Kathy Von Der Linn says:

    Wow! Big news, exciting changes for you. We are happy that we will be hearing new music from you and reading inspirational books. Our prayers will be with you each step of the way❤️
    Kathy and Jim V.


    • Big changes indeed! Thanks for your prayers and support. I’ll be somewhat freer to travel now. I plan to come to Seattle at some point to see you and friends. Unless you are full time in AZ. Either way, you and Jim are very dear to me. –roc,sj


  2. Joanie Thomas Parks says:

    Imagine my surprise when a I saw a article about your book and saw your name.
    You probably don’t remember me but I remember you from Morrison Street in St Louis appox 1971 or so when you tutored me in math and help me pass my math class. You made a impact on me by encouraging me to continue even when it got tough. I always prayed for you and I wondered where you wound up at.I knew you continued in music and I am glad you are writing as I remember how much you loved it.
    God bless on your next journey….


    • Wow! How amazing is this! Joanie are you a member of the Thomas family that lived across the street from the Jesuit house on Morrison? Even if not, thank you for finding me and writing! I am well and, as you read, I’m remaining in Milwaukee for at least a couple years to write and compose. And you? Where do you live? How are you? Thank you for reaching out. Blessings to you!!! –roc,sj


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