As a young Catholic priest who I am just returning from a sabbatical year, I feel compelled to share my reflections on the transformative experience I had while participating in the ICOF (Inter-Congregational Ongoing Formation) Sabbatical program. It is through this article that I hope to convey the profound impact this journey has had on me, not only as a priest but also as an individual.
Gratitude to my superiors for the opportunity and all who supported me.
First and foremost, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to embark on this sabbatical journey. If I had not been given this chance to participate in the ICOF program this year, I would have missed out on an extraordinary period of personal growth, spiritual rejuvenation, and cultural immersion. The sabbatical year provided me with invaluable time for introspection, self-discovery, and deepening my faith.
A Renewed Perspective.
During my time away, I encountered diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives that broadened my understanding of the world and the human experience. Engaging with people from different walks of life and witnessing their faith in action has significantly enriched my own spiritual journey. The profound encounters I had during the sabbatical year have not only shaped my perspective as a Catholic priest but also as a compassionate and empathetic individual committed to serving others.
Rediscovering Purpose and Passion.
Stepping away from the daily demands of my pastoral responsibilities allowed me to rediscover my sense of purpose and reignite my passion for ministry. The sabbatical year provided an opportunity for rest, reflection, and intellectual exploration, enabling me to deepen my knowledge of theology, scripture, spirituality and care for the environment. As a result, I am returning to the ministry with renewed energy, fresh insights, and a deepened commitment to guiding and supporting those entrusted to my care and anyone I will come across.
Enhancing pastoral skills.
ICOF’s sabbatical program also offered various classes, workshops, recollections, retreats, and opportunities for personal and professional development. These experiences have equipped me with enhanced pastoral skills, empowering me to better connect with and minister to the diverse needs of people of God and my congregation MHM (Mill Hill Missionaries). I have gained a deeper understanding of pastoral care, leadership, and the importance of fostering inclusive and welcoming communities.
An Invitation to others.
To my fellow Brothers and Sisters and people of God who may come across this article, I encourage you to consider the value of taking a sabbatical year or engaging in similar forms of self-reflection and renewal. Such experiences can be profoundly transformative, enabling us to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. Whether you are a clergy, religious or a person seeking personal renewal, a sabbatical year can offer a time of healing, discernment, and rediscovery.
In retrospect, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the ICOF Sabbatical program this year. The sabbatical year allowed me to step away from the demands of my pastoral responsibilities, explore new horizons, deepen my faith, and return to my mission with a renewed sense of purpose and passion. I hope that by sharing my reflections, I can inspire others to embrace similar opportunities for growth and transformation in their own lives. May we all find the courage to embark on journeys of self-discovery and renewal, enriching not only our own lives but also the lives of those we serve and live with.
Placide Elia MHM