May 17, 2019

Be Our Guest / Tom Yost

A lay response to Archbishop Thompson’s reflection on the ‘Good Shepherd’

Tom YostI want to thank Archbishop Charles C. Thompson for his May 10 column in The Criterion on the pastoral leadership style of Jesus the “Good Shepherd.”

He begins by referencing Pope Francis, who tells us that a good pastor sometimes leads his people by walking in front of them; sometimes by following them; but most often by walking alongside (accompanying) them.

All three ways of “walking” are very important in their own way, but in my experience of a good pastor the walking alongside (accompanying) is the most meaningful to parishioners.

I have worked alongside seven pastors and two associate pastors in my 37 years of serving on the pastoral staff of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany. We have been blessed by all of them, with each having their particular gifts and leadership style.

The “Good Shepherds” who touch their sheep (parishioners) the most are the ones who walk alongside them. This takes great effort and intentionality. It is a style that comes less naturally than walking in front or behind. It requires much more listening and love. It is a ministry of presence and humility. It builds unity and community in a parish. People are hungering for pastors to know them and walk alongside them.

I am very grateful for our priests and the priests I have personally experienced. I pray the grace that comes from the sacrament of holy orders and the power of the Holy Spirit accompany them always.

I also pray that this same grace and Spirit inspire and lead them to accompany and walk alongside the people entrusted to them. The good shepherd and his sheep will truly find good pasture in this setting.

(Tom Yost is a pastoral associate at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany.)

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