Monday, May 15, 2017

Ora et labora, Abitadeacon style

The great St. Benedict had for his motto, Ora et labora, translated: prayer and work.  This motto was embraced by his monks who of course devoted their day to prayer, but worked diligently every day at the tasks at hand in running a monastery.  Monks did it all, worked in the gardens and fields, cooking, cleaning the place, instructing/teaching and so much more. 

Lately, I must confess, my life feels like a lot more labora than ora.  In my 35 plus year career in finance, 25 of those years directly in banking, I have never experienced what has been happening of late and will continue into the future.  Here is the background.  In 2012 I left the bank I thought I would retire with to begin a job managing a branch for a smaller bank known as FNBC Bank.  I would be in a smaller more rural community than where I was coming from.  While smaller, I would soon learn that Pearl River LA was a growing community.  For me, it became the perfect stop on my banking journey, somewhat laid back, a good staff, plenty of growth opportunities and then one day, we found ourselves the only bank in town, and we grew even more.  And all seemed well with the bank until 2016 when reports began to indicate problems.  Without belaboring the issues here, I will fast forward to December 30, 2016 when FNBC devised a plan to sell off 9 branches to the much larger, well known Whitney Bank.  On a hastily called conference call, me and my staff would learn that we in Pearl River are one of the nine.  You could imagine that we had no idea what that meant for us.

With another New Year's celebration behind us, we gathered at work to begin hearing the details of how this transition would begin.  We each dealt with the various requirements to transition to the new bank all the while answering customer questions and still working hard every day to grow the branch.  We did find ourselves short handed as we rapidly moved to the first day converting from FNBC to Whitney.  Needless to say, my responsibilities as manager required my presence every day during transition and conversion so I began many days of long hours, short lunches and lots of Saturdays.  Needless to say, I had less available times to attend to certain ministry requirements.  I missed several assigned nights at Rayburn Prison, even missed a night or two for my Bible class.  Fortunately, all baptisms and weddings were not impacted by my new work schedule.

I did not mention that during this conversion, we were also dealing with preparing for our move into a new facility, and then the stunning news that it appeared my now former bank, FNBC Bank, could be failing.  On April 28, the bank indeed would fail and the FDIC moved in.  To our surprise, we would find out that our now new bank, Whitney Bank, would assume certain assets of the now failed FNBC Bank. 

All of this combined to result in many new account opening opportunities, tons of customer questions, lots of logistical detail and we handled all of this with good old fashioned hard work.  Now today, we begin in full implementing the new Whitney systems, helping customers and still helping those customers not fully converted yet from the FNBC branches that were part of the FDIC action previously discussed.

For me personally, and especially as a Permanent Deacon, I am thankful that these impacts have been somewhat manageable, all the while mindful that a Permanent Deacon must remain faithful to his family responsibilities, and if employed, his work responsibilities.  After all a Deacon is a Deacon whether at church or home or work!

I know at least locally many of you, parishioners, brother Deacons, friends, have been wondering about how all this work stuff has impacted me personally or simply wondering where the Deacon has been.  I hope this little article helps some.

During this transition we celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker where we are reminded that the foster-father of Jesus indeed brought dignity and a spirituality to his work.  This has given me great comfort just has the example of St. Benedict and his monks, Ora et Labora; pray and work.  I hope as I continue this latest work journey on my long career, I never forget to pray and give thanks to God for my job and all those I can help along the way!

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