Monday, June 22, 2009

A Week with the Boy Scouts

Last week I had the opportunity to be at our Boy Scout Council's National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) course staff preparation week. I've served as director for this course and it's predecessor, Junior Leader Training (JLT) course. Ever time I've seen an impact in the lives of many of the young men involved. Having a priest on staff helps set a different tone.

What I find even more impressive is the number of our young priests and seminarians who have been involved Boy Scouting, and this course. All of the priests in our diocese under the age of 45 were Boy Scouts. Several of our younger seminarians have also been Boy Scouts. The young man we will ordain tomorrow attend our JLT course. One of our seminarians also attended the course. One of my prospective seminarians was on staff with me for the JLT course.

I had the privilege of saying Mass for the Catholic staff members on Saturday night before leaving on Sunday morning to drive to Billings for our ordination activities. One third of our youth staff are Catholic. Most attended Mass. Some even attended daily Mass which was offered during the week. I left my vocations business card with a few of them. We'll see if I get any nibbles.

If you have the opportunity to support Catholic Scouting, please do so. This is a bed of formation for our future priests.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Getting Ready for My New Assignment

I sent the following to the local weekly to be published the day I arrive in my new parish.

Immaculate Conception parish to welcome new pastor

The parishioners at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Fort Benton and Saint Margaret Catholic Church in Geraldine will be welcoming a new pastor on July 1. Father Leo McDowell has been appointed as the pastor of the parishes by Bishop Michael Warfel, the bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings with a formal installation ceremony to take place later in the summer.

Father McDowell grew up moving between Montana and South Dakota. His father was as USDA meat inspector which led to the family moves. Father McDowell went to high school in Forsyth, MT. Following high school Father McDowell attended school at MSU and, upon acceptance by the diocese as a seminarian, transferred to Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon where he completed his bachelor’s degree. Father McDowell then attended Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago where he completed his Master of Divinity degree in 1994.

Father McDowell was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings on June 8, 1994 at Saint Ann’s Cathedral in Great Falls. His first assignment was to Saint Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings as the Parochial Vicar. While at Saint Patrick’s he also assisted at Holy Rosary and was involved with the Billings Catholic Schools.

In 1998 Father McDowell assumed responsibility for Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Circle, Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Jordan and Saint Francis deSales Catholic Church in Richey. It is from this experience that Father McDowell comes to our communities.

In October of 2008 Bishop Warfel asked Father McDowell to assume the additional duties of vocation director for the diocese. In addition to serving in the parish Father McDowell will be meeting with young men and women from around the state and beyond to talk about service in the church within the diocese. Father McDowell also serves as a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve. He is currently assigned to Malmstrom AFB for his training responsibilities.

In his former communities, Father McDowell also helped out by volunteering and being trained as an EMT-B and wildland firefighter. As he states, "the flexibility of my schedule often makes it easier for me to help out in these areas, when I am in town." When asked about other activities Father McDowell mentioned that he has been involved with the Boy Scouts, enjoys the outdoors, camping and hunting.

When asked about his move to Fort Benton, Father McDowell admits, “After ten years, I’m going to miss my old parish, but I’m really looking forward to getting involved here and sharing in the history of the ‘Birthplace of Montana’”.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

25 years

I was just looking at some of my pictures on my laptop and realized I had a copy of my senior picture in my files. Somethings change a lot in 25 years. Somethings not so much.

As I look at the pictures, not a lot seems to have changed. The eye-glasses are definitely different. There is a little more gray in the hair and the smile looks more confident. The tie has been replaced with a Roman collar. Just a few small changes.

Twenty-five years ago, I was not envisioning myself as a priest. I was getting ready to head off to Montana State University. Twenty-five years ago I would never have imagined I'd be motherless in less than a year. Twenty-five years ago I thought today I'd be retiring from the Air Force and just about ready to start a second career.

As I look I wonder where I'll be in another 25 years? What changes will continue to take place in my life?

We often have ideas about where we want to go, but we never really know where we are headed. We need to live our lives so as to be the best that we can be, keeping our ears open to hear God's call. It is not too much to anticipate that God may be calling us to greater things than we have on our radars today. We should live our lives accordingly.

May God bless us all with many more years to serve him.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Spiritual Leadership

I just submitted the following for our state Knights of Columbus newsletter. I hope you enjoy :)

Just after our great State Convention, I traveled south to take care of some Air Force Reserve commitments. I first traveled to Warren Robbins AFB in Georgia for a Reserve Chaplains Conference. The following two weeks I spent at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery Alabama to attend the Intermediate Chaplain Course.

One of the topics that was discussed at the chaplain school was spiritual leadership. As Knights of Columbus, spiritual leadership should be a focal point in our lives. As fathers and husbands, we often think about our leadership within the family. Many of us are our family bread winners. Those who are fathers have many times been called upon to instill discipline in their children. Yet, these are more of the signs of material leadership.

As spiritual leaders in our families and our communities, we need to be leading by example. People need to be able to look at us and see the presence of holiness. This holiness needs to be a genuine holiness, not a show for people to see. We start developing this holiness by developing our own prayer life. I remember my godfather and his attempt to grow in holiness. As his breathing problems got worse in life, and he was unable to get around like he once did, he spent hours praying the rosary at the kitchen table. He did this out of faith and was truly and inspiration to those around. This was a sign of a spiritual leader.

While we are working on our own spiritual life, what are some ways we can show our leadership? First, we can take an active role in our parishes as leaders of prayer. How many of our parishes pray the rosary before Mass? Could you help lead your parish in this prayer? How many of us could be identified as men of prayer by those who see us on the street? There are Catholic car magnets and T-shirts available to present the Catholic faith. One can find wonderful items using Google. Do we dress modestly? Do people walking into our homes immediately realize that our home is a Catholic home?

Little things like these help remind us of our role as spiritual leaders. With these reminders in our lives, we can truly transform ourselves into spiritual leaders.

Until next time, God Bless

Fr. Leo