I had the unexpected pleasure today of introducing the speaker at the Pastoral Associate/Pastoral Ministers Association retreat for the Diocese of Rochester. The inspired speaker was my former professor of liturgical leadership and academic advisor, Dr. Ella Johnson, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at St. Bernard’s. “Hope! Sustaining and Renewing Life-Giving Ministry” was the topic and the presentation lived up to its title.
A point of reflection for me is Ella’s distinction between the virtue of hope and optimism. While optimism holds the expectation that something better will happen, the reality is that sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes optimism comes, then it goes. Hope, on the other hand, is the belief that whatever the situation, God is with us, leading us, sustaining us. Rather than looking forward with optimistic expectation of particular resolutions, hope allows us to live in the moment, confident that all of life is in God’s hands. “Hope believes God will make every circumstance better,” Ella shared.
Ministry, she said, is “hope in action.” To sustain ourselves for the challenging mission of God, a “Eucharistic spirituality is critical” for those working in the ministry of the Church. It “reveals who we are now and who we are called to be.” Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, “Eucharistic communion includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in return.” The Eucharist brings us to a sacramental vision that grace is everywhere and all leads us to God. And above all, in ministry, we must recall the important words of Pope Francis, “no sourpusses!”
An expert in medieval women’s theology, an important theme of the day was that of St. Julian of Norwich that we must believe—in faith and in hope and in love—that with God, “All will be well.”