His Eminence, Archbishop Josephâ€™s Remarks on the Occasion of Father Hanna Sakkabâ€™s Retirement
February 18, 2012
San Diego, California
Beloved in Christ, Father Hanna, Kh. Mary, the Sakkab Family, Father George, Deacon Maxim and all the faithful of St. George Church:
The announcing of the retirement of a priest is an important event in a parish community. Divine Grace always expresses in our hearts, personally and as a holy community, the depths of Divine mercy and the love of God. None of us, from the Archbishop to the little children need ever be alarmed or concerned about changes like this. God loves mankind, which means that He loves each of you personally and this community as a whole. We arrive here at a most important point in our life together in the spirit of hope, looking for the Lordâ€™s provision for us.
Father Hanna is now retired. He has completed his long and faithful service as the priest of a parish communityâ€”for 58 years as a presbyter and priest, from Beirut in Lebanon, to New York state, and finally to San Diego. His retirement marks not the end of his ministry, but only a transition to the next chapter. He still has responsibilities to fulfill for his own salvation and for the completion of his calling in this life. Many of you are aware of his writing goals, as well as of other projects. He will be able to devote himself to prayer, to his family, and to his writing. As for the community, Father Hannaâ€™s retirement as priest does not mean that St. George Church is lessened in any way. Each priest brings his own abilities, charisma, and emphases in his pastoral ministry. This is the nature of human existence: each of us needs the other in order to enter upon the fullness of a life in Christ. As St. Paul said to the ancient Corinthians, â€śif the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?â€ť (I Cor 12:17). We are the Body of Christ and each of us are members in particular. Father Hanna served you in his unique way as your priest; another priest will come who will have his own personality and way of relating to you. This is our life in Christ.
When a priest retires from active ministry in the parish, a number of questions come up. The retiring priest asks himself, â€śNow that I have embarked upon this step of retirement, what will I do?â€ť â€śWhat kind of daily schedule will I keep?â€ť or â€śHow will I continue to be productive for the Lordâ€™s sake, and for my salvation?â€ť And the parish in which he has served faithfully asks many questions as well, â€śWhat will we do now that our father in Christ is retired?â€ť â€śHow do we relate to him (if he continues to live in our community, and perhaps participate in the Divine services)?â€ť and then, â€śWho and what kind of priest will the Bishop send us?â€ť or even â€śhow long will it be before we get to meet our new priest?â€ť
These, and perhaps many other questions and confusion may come upon us when we hear the news of the priestâ€™s retirement. Let me offer some remarks directed to these questions. My intent is to encourage you and to guide you all toward the good things which the Lord has in store for you.
First, I will appoint Father Hannaâ€™s successor to this parish, a Hierarchical ministry which we bishops exercise in prayer and love. The great resources of our Holy Church are like a reservoir of blessings. When we feel spiritual empty, we beseech our merciful God to replenish us through His great blessings. â€śFreely ye have received; freely give.â€ť
Beloved, do not worry or be anxious about who will be appointed to succeed your priest. This decision and the related details are in good hands! In the meantime, you should all pray and seek the face of the Lord, imploring His great mercyâ€”as always; especially now that Great Lent is about to begin. The holy Prophet Jeremiah gave the word of the Lord: â€śThose who seek Me will find Me, if they seek Me with all their heart.â€ť
Father Hanna, I speak to you in the presence of everyone. Upon entering retirement, continue with your holy rule of prayer and love! Remember that your rich pastoral experience and struggle of faith has given you a profound insight and wisdom. You have a holy responsibility to pass this on through a continued, humble and loving ministry, just as you were called upon to offer it beginning many years ago. But realize also that a new priest will come, and he will need the freedom to exercise his ministry without any obstacles. Sometimes it can be difficult to see younger, less experienced men deal with certain circumstances in imperfect ways. But each of us must learn in our own time, and experience is far and away the best teacher! In silence and love let us watch and pray! Work on your good projects and enjoy the good seasons of life left to you. Put your energy to work each day in prayer and faithfulness.
Faithful parish council members, and all you dear ones in Christ, rejoice in the goodness of God, and in the hope of glory. Your new priest will come with a new set of abilities and talents. He will have different needs. Take your time and get to know him and seek to understand his way of relating to you. The parish is a hospital for the sick, a resting place for the weary, and a haven of holiness. All of you, along with Father Hanna, and soon the new priest, possess the same sign of the Cross engraved upon your hearts. We all speak the same language of faith, hope, and love.
May the Grace of the Lord be with you all!