Dear St. Paul parish family,
I address you as family for a reason. As a priest, St. Paul RC Church has been the only parish I’ve been able to call home for any significant amount of time. In my first 4 ½ years of priesthood I found myself moving around a lot from one parish to another. Nowadays, St. Paul has been my parish home since September 1, 2015, and it’s been an absolute blessing!
In just a month from now, on May 28, I’ll be celebrating 10 years of being a Catholic priest. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. I always knew that one day I would like to become a pastor of a parish. For many years I just knew that I was not ready for that, and I’ve been very content and comfortable ministering here as a parochial vicar under Fr. John Gabriel’s leadership. However, in the past 9 months or so, the desire to become a pastor, or to have some role in a specialized ministry, has increased. After many conversations with my spiritual director and Fr. John, along with prayer to the Lord, I decided to take the steps necessary to inquire about the next stage in the process for me. After good dialogue with the Archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy, it has been decided that the next step in the process is for me to move to another parish as parochial vicar for some time. This will be an opportunity for more growth and development in my priestly life and service, as well as a great building block for the years ahead. Though I do not yet know where I will be going, I do know that June 30th of this year will be my last day as a parish priest here at St. Paul.
Now that the transfer process is under way, I am filled with many different emotions. Though there is some excitement, there is certainly fear and sadness. There is also the feeling of pain in having to tell you all this news. Please know that I love you truly and that I will always be so thankful for all of you. St. Paul has truly been a home and a family to me. Being one of your priests has never been merely a duty, but rather an honor and a pleasure! You all bring me such great joy, and hopefully I’ve been able to be a bridge to God for all of you. Though I certainly have many defects, I pray that my gifts and talents, and even my weaknesses, have served you well. Ultimately this is all about Jesus Christ. The personality of a priest, with all of their assets, and even some weaknesses, can truly be a blessing for God’s people, but in the end, it’s not about the person of the priest. Fr. John has been so helpful in helping me process all of this, as well as for our staff and pastoral council. He has reminded us of the very wise words of our parish patron, St. Paul, from 1 Corinthians chapter 3:
What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.
It has been God’s will that I be one of His ministers here at St. Paul parish, but now it is His will that I minister to His flock elsewhere. This is certainly not as easy as it sounds. I truly do love you. I am extremely grateful for all of the time I have spent here. St. Paul truly is a special place, and a great blessing to any priest who serves here, and one of the greatest reasons for that is YOU. You have allowed me to be your priest. You have welcomed me into your home. You have allowed me to be a significant part of your lives. And when my family experienced the worst tragedy that has ever come upon us; the sudden death of my brother Kevin, YOU were all there for us!!! Not just for me, but also for my parents, and more. I’ll never forget that. And finally, when I took time off to deal with the trauma and anger, you prayed for me, you wrote me, and when I finally came back, you welcomed me back with arms wide open. THANK YOU! Truly thank you from the bottom of my heart! Fr. John deserves extra special recognition here. Thank you for always allowing St. Paul to be my home. I’m a better man and a better priest because of it.
We still have two full months together before I’m called elsewhere. I desire to soak up every minute of this time in spending it with each of you in one form or another. Let’s enjoy Spring together! There is much to be grateful for. There is much to celebrate! You might want to celebrate me, but I want to celebrate you! I look forward to our time left together, and even then it’s never goodbye forever.
With love, honor, respect, and gratitude, I am truly your priest in Christ,
Fr. Paul C. Houlis
P.S. I am excited, honored, and grateful to celebrate my 10 Year Priest Anniversary and my “Farewell” with all of you on Sunday, June 27th at the Noon Mass followed by a big reception outdoors (weather permitting) and/or in the gym and cafeteria. Please save the date.