Weekly Bulletin Column

From Fr. Michael Reding

August 3, 2021

Sabbatical

From August 2 to December 22, I will be away from the parish on sabbatical.

In our Archdiocese, priests are permitted to take a sabbatical every seven years. My last one was in 2005, so I am long overdue. I am grateful for five things that now make this time of rest and renewal possible:

1. An excellent lay staff here at Saint Thomas who will ensure that the parish continues to effectively fulfill our mission in my absence

2. The commitments of Fr. Steve McMichael and Fr. Mike Joncas, who will preside for Masses while I’m gone

3. The successful completion of several strategic initiatives here at Saint Thomas related to our ministries and improvements to our facilities

4. The policy of our Archdiocese and the permission of Archbishop Hebda

5. A generous grant from the Lilly Endowment which will fund not only my activities on sabbatical but also the expenses of the parish while I’m gone (for substitute clergy, visiting speakers, etc.)

Most of my time away will be spent at my alma mater, Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Many of you know that I consider my years at Wabash to be life-changing, but most of the changes that were prompted during that time were only appreciated by me in later years. My hope for this sabbatical is to re-visit some of that experience, knowing now that it helped to lead me to a vocation to the priesthood.

At Wabash, I will be auditing classes with undergraduates (completing the assigned readings and participating in class discussions, but not writing papers or taking exams). The College has graciously invited me to reside in a couple of rooms in the house of its first professor – built in 1836 at the heart of the campus. In addition to taking classes, I look forward to a fall semester of home football games, reconnecting with some of my fraternity brothers, and casual conversation with today’s undergraduates. By stepping out of my formal role as “the priest,” I look forward to hearing about their hopes and dreams, their faith, their values, and their impressions of the church.

In addition to my time at Wabash, there are four other parts of my sabbatical that will enrich the experience further:

1. In October, I expect to spend a long weekend in New York City, where I completed a course of Clinical Pastoral Education in 1994.

2. In November, I hope to travel to France and Germany for ten days to visit friends who played significant roles in the development of my faith and vocation.

3. In December, after the semester has concluded, I plan to spend a week on retreat – likely at Saint John’s Abbey – reflecting on the experience and giving thanks to God.

4. My original plans included a two-week trip to England to spend time at Durham, where I lived and studied for a year while in college. A friend and I had intended to depart for England on August 2. But when July 19 came (two weeks before our intended departure) Americans entering Britain were still required to quarantine for ten days upon arrival. There was no indication that this policy would change, and so we cancelled all our bookings. Then, on July 27, England changed course and announced that, beginning August 2, vaccinated Americans can visit without quarantine. For us, the policy-change came too late; our plans had been recast. So, we will spend the first couple of sabbatical weeks vacationing nearby, and we hope to make the journey to England sometime in 2022.

I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity. I’m grateful to all of you who have offered words of support and encouragement. I know that there’s truth in the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and I look forward to returning to celebrate the Masses of Christmas with you in December.