“[There is] a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth … a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant” (Ec 3:1-2).

As I look back on my day of ordination to the priesthood, I remember Bishop Kenneth Angell telling me to be open to the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

“Realize,” he said, “that you will be called to do things you never thought possible or would ever dream.”

God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our capabilities and our talent. In my nearly 24 years of priesthood, the one sure thing I have learned is to do exactly what Bishop Angell said: Be open to God’s grace and direction in my life.

Simply walking with God in prayer has led to some incredible opportunities in the priesthood in parishes, at Rice Memorial High School and in writing these columns.

A phone call from Pat Gore (then editor of The Vermont Catholic Tribune) in the summer of 1999 started what has been a wonderful ministry for me. From 1999 to 2005, I wrote the “Ask Father Bernie” columns in the Tribune. I received questions from all over to answer and explain.

At the inception of the current Vermont Catholic in 2007, Pat asked me to resume writing. This time, the format would be more homiletic and would follow the readings of one of the weekends the issue covered. We called the column Living the Word.

I have now decided it is time for me to step back from this ministry. As the quote from Ecclesiastes above states, “There is an appointed time for everything … .” It is my time.

In writing these columns, I have tried to open the Scriptures assigned to a particular weekend to help readers to see that the wisdom of ancient Biblical literature is and always will be relevant to our lives today. The stories and teachings of Jesus, along with all that is in Bible, live on in our hearts and souls as followers of Christ. They

are our stories because we find ourselves in them, being healed, forgiven and taught by Christ.

I want to thank many people who have been part of this endeavor over the last two decades. I thank Bishops Angell, Salvatore Matano and Christopher Coyne for their leadership and encouragement in writing these columns. I thank Pat

Gore for asking me to do this and for her wise and gentle leadership of The Vermont Catholic Tribune and in the transition to Vermont Catholic.

Ellen Kane, the current editor, has been very helpful to me and patient with deadlines as parish life can sometimes take over. Thank you, Pat and Ellen! A nod goes to Cori Urban for her keen editing skills. I have appreciated Cori’s ability to see each word in its full context.

Most of all, I thank you, the readers of this column. Many of you have stuck with me through these nearly 20 years. Some have reached out to me, and others I have met along the way at one of our parishes or schools.

A few of you I met in restaurants and grocery stores. I am humbled by the numbers of people over the years who have told me they read my columns and have been nourished by them. I pray that in some small way something I wrote inspired you

to grow closer to Jesus Christ. That’s what really matters! I always prayed before I penned a column, asking God to work through me. I can only hope I was able to get out of the way and let Him talk to you through me.

Let us pray for one another and ask God to open each of our hearts and souls to Him. On my ordination day, I never imagined this ministry would be such an important part of my life. But God knew.

May God bless you, and may you continue to grow in hope, faith and love. Let us together continue to love Jesus Christ, His Church and the Eucharist. Such is the life of faith. How blessed are we!

—Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois is the pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes in Rutland and St. Patrick Parish in Wallingford. He can be reached at revbwb@gmail.com.

—Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.