By Fr. Anthony Odiong
˜ Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ˜
Goodbyes are very difficult to get used to, even when they are a part of your routine schedule at work. We almost always want to cling to what is good, or to those people or places that have brought out the best in us. For the past five years as director of Campus Ministry at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center at Baylor University, with several Baccalaureate Masses yearly, I have never been able to get used to saying goodbye to our students as they graduate college or step up to other things in life. We know they have to go, but we miss their individual and unique contributions to the community.
Goodbyes are difficult because they imply change. When life is good we prefer the comfort of permanence rather than the uncertainty of change. The Ascension experience must have been a mixture of joy and sorrow for Jesus’ friends; joy at His glorification and return to the Father’s right hand, and sorrow at not having Him physically and visibly with them. They had to get used to a new way of experiencing Him sacramentally. Aware of their ambivalence, the Lord Jesus made this timeless promise: “I am with you always, until the end of the ages.” (Matthew 28:20)
Goodbyes can be very positive experiences, the occasion for growth and improvement. If Jesus did not return to the Father, His friends would not have been challenged to step out into the world and witness to His love. If we don’t have the courage to say goodbye to our parents, friends, and home, we will never get the blessing of a college education. If we never graduate, enjoying the comfort and security of college eternally, we never get to grow.
Leaving the love and comfort of St. Peter’s and saying goodbye to my friends and home of five years is much more difficult than I ever imagined. However, when I think of the good of studying for a Doctorate degree in Theology and the blessings that will come from it, I am consoled. Together, we have seen St. Peter’s become more and more a home to our students and permanent community members. The tendency is to want to hold on to that. However, we must always remain open to God’s will – which is always the best for all of us. What you and I must ensure, as our students graduate, and directors and other members of the community sometimes have to move on, is that the unique spirit of St. Peter’s remain and thrive.
It’s this spirit that binds us all together whether we are far or near; students or alums, permanent community members, staff or friends. It is in this spirit that the promise of Christ is realized: “I am with you always to the end of the ages.”
Blog Note: July 1, 2012, Fr. Anthony Odiong will step down as director of St. Peter’s to pursue a doctoral degree in Theology.