For the past two years I have been telling a tale...a tale of a young priest who found himself assigned to the far reaches of Maine's northern countryside. He was a brand new priest when he arrived in his new parish and he took on his new curacy with a lot of excitement, but also with a little bit of fear and uncertainty. The Bishop had sent him to the greater Caribou/Presque Isle region, to the Parish of the Precious Blood, where he would be three-hundred miles from where he grew up, among people he'd never met, serving ten churches, and trying to carry it all off with at least a modicum of grace and decorum. I began telling the tale of this young priest in an effort to show that God's grace, though it challenges and stretches us, can surprise us beyond our wildest expectations. And this young priest, the Country Curate as he referred to himself, was indeed utterly surprised by how quickly he came to love his new assignment and his new life in Aroostook County. He fell in love with the beautiful countryside...the vast farmland, the dense forests, and all the rivers and streams and lakes. He fell in love with the community...his parishioners, the families he grew close to, and all of the many people he would meet around town. And he fell deeper in love with his God Who confirmed him in his priestly life and built him up in his ministry.
The tale, the saga, the story of the Country Curate is one that I never dreamed would come to an end so soon, but alas, it has. Upon the request of the Bishop, he has had to give up the rural and agrarian life he came to cherish for a more urban and coastal life. There will no doubt be many blessings and friendships and graces in his new work in the Portland area, but deep down he will always know that it was Aroostook County and all that it had to offer that first claimed him and swept him off his feet. And while for he now he might have to wash the garden soil off of his hands and say farewell to all of his favorite chickens and goats, this priest will forever be the country curate in his heart and soul.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I think these will show more truly what this tale has really been like...
When I look at these pictures, I can be nothing but grateful. Thank you Mars Hill, Presque Isle, Portage, Ashland, Washburn, Caribou, North Caribou, Stockholm, Limestone, and Fort Fairfield. With your prayers and love, and with God's grace, you have made me into the man and the priest I am,
The tale of the Country Curate may be coming to end, but there is another tale to be told. It's the tale of a still-young priest, but with a little bit more experience under his belt. It's the tale of a parochial vicar with new people to meet and serve and love. It's the tale of a priest who left the woods for the ocean. It's the tale of the Coastal Curate.
Stay tuned if you want to hear his story.