Ten years ago today, at the age of 66, Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, passed on to the Lord.
He was a bishop who sought to live as a pastor who opens the door to life in abundance. As he once wrote, “The shepherd brings them to the wide open spaces, green pastures, wider horizons, where they can have a freedom they never knew before.”
His pastoral style was reflected in his greeting to a meeting soon after his consecration as bishop: “Hello, I’m Ken, and I’ll be your waiter.”
He spent much of his time on the road, visiting the parishes in his diocese and staying in various rectories.
But what he might be most remembered for is a prayer he wrote in 1979 for Cardinal Dearden. For some unknown reason it was attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero and became known as “The Romero Prayer.”
Though it expresses some of the spirituality of Romero, it is the work of Bishop Untener. It is a good prayer to pray this Lent.
It helps now and then to step back
and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection;
no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds
that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast
that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter
and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.