After the celebration of the Mass, Fr. Matthew Morelli always carefully packs away the instruments of the liturgy. He cleans the chalice and the patens, straightens the book marks in the lectionary, folds the altar cloths, and returns everything to its proper place.
He has done so every Thursday since 2018, when his first assignment after ordination brought him to Delone Catholic High School as chaplain, and to St. Joseph in Hanover as parochial vicar.
“I was ordained June 2, 2018, and my first assignment came June 14, 2018,” Fr. Morelli said. “I already had my bags packed, so I was ready.” He had spent four years in seminary at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia, from which he got a philosophy degree; then two years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome; then a pastoral year at St. Rose of Lima Church, York; before rounding out his education with two years at Mount St. Mary’s.
On Oct. 22, he will carefully pack away all the instruments of the Mass at Delone Catholic for the last time. In September, Fr. Morelli was one of the priests who received new parish assignments. He will leave McSherrystown for Lancaster, taking up the mantle of pastor at St. Anthony of Padua.
His ministry in Catholic education will continue; on the grounds of St. Anthony of Padua is Resurrection Catholic School, a K-8 school that educates children from St. Anthony, St. Joseph, San Juan Bautista, and Historic St. Mary’s churches. One of the priests from those parishes, whose elementary schools combined in 1991, will serve as executive pastor.
“What I’m going to miss most about Delone is the community. A great example is the football games, which have taken a hit because of COVID, but our community is very centered around our school. When you go to the games, you feel it,” he said.
The change for him is both “scary and exciting,” he said. “I’ll be a pastor of souls. It’s my first assignment as pastor. It’s frightening but there are also exciting new responsibilities.”
“Changing parishes can be one of the most bittersweet experiences for a priest. You reflect on the time spent with your parish family,” he said.
Many aspects of the Mass have been changed this year due to COVID, and the priest reassignments are no different. Normally a summer event taking effect at the end of June, this year’s assignments were delayed by four months.
“It’s a much busier time to transition,” Fr. Morelli said. “We all need to really hit the ground running. The life of the place you’re going to is already underway. In the words of St. Paul, you have to ‘be all things to all people.’”
All new assignments take effect Oct. 26; the first Sunday all priests will be in their new parishes is Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. Monday, of course, is then All Souls’ Day. After that, there are two weeks left in Ordinary Time. Christ the King is Nov. 22, and then Nov. 29 is the first Sunday of Advent. From there, it’s a whirlwind of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and before anyone knows it, it will be Ash Wednesday.
As he winds down his time at Delone and prepares to move to St. Anthony, he said he is drawing comfort from a particular passage in the Gospel of Mark: Jesus Calms the Storm (Mark 4:35-41):
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
“Sometimes it’s hard to feel calm when there are changes happening, but in the end, we know God is in control,” he said.