Learning to Let Go
I celebrated my golden jubilee as a Glenmary missioner in 2013. Leading up to this celebration, I was granted a sabbatical during which I was able to quietly pray, reflect and read for 2½ months in a little cottage in Tennessee. It was there that I relearned the meaning of "letting go." I realized during this time that I should learn to let go of my recent position in Glenmary support ministry—and to place my trust in God's providence that things would be okay.
The more I reflected on "letting go and letting God," the more I began to see how that process has unfolded at other times in my life. During my senior year of high school, I had been thinking about a vocation but wasn't sure. Thanks to a suggestion from a Glenmary sister, I visited Glenmary and became interested in brotherhood. But I still wasn't sure because I knew I wasn't too mechanically inclined, like brothers were at that time. Yet I felt a strong call and eventually said, "Yes, this is what I want. This is where God is calling me." I let go!
Some years later, a priest friend asked if I had ever thought of priesthood. He suggested that I should think about it, even though I was happy as a Glenmary brother. For the next year I prayed about it and continued talking to my friend. Eventually I asked to go back to school to study for the priesthood. I had to let go and trusted that God was leading me.
After ordination I served in a Georgia mission. Before going, I let go of my hesitancy and trusted. And, as always, I was rewarded with many graced moments. There was the time I sat with a family whose husband/dad was on life support, and I witnessed how their faith guided them in their decision to remove that support. And there was the night I sat with a gay man who tried to end his life with drugs and alcohol.
I experienced so many similar moments of grace in the years that followed, while serving as a pastor in Oklahoma, working for 20 years as Glenmary development director, and providing outreach in various ways in the local Cincinnati community.
Along the way I was faced with a real challenge, and I questioned my faith. I felt abandoned by God—God wasn't there for me. Nothing in Glenmary, the Church or life made any sense to me. I saw nothing but darkness and felt I had little in which to believe. This went on for months. I prayed for faith and light—and to just hold on. In holding on, I learned I also had to let go, trust in God and believe all would be well. In time, it was.
I share my story hoping that it might deepen another's religious vocation or give someone discerning a vocation the courage to let go and trust in the providence of God. There might be challenges along the way, but know that we can always place our trust in God, who will not be outdone in generosity.
Reflecting on 50 years as a missioner has given me a deep appreciation of my vocation and how God has worked in and through me, even when I wasn't fully aware. Most of all, I have learned that God is in charge and that I have to let go and trust.
Trust where God is leading, and you will reach the place where you are supposed to be!