Parish Interview: Mary O’Shaughnessy

February 16, 2016 Comments Off on Parish Interview: Mary O’Shaughnessy


St. Luke in the Fields Blog: How do you think Lent differs and prepares us from the other liturgical seasons?

Mary O’Shaughnessy: I think of Lent as the season in which we open ourselves to the value of pruning ourselves and our commitments in order to be more fruitful at a future time.

It is so easy to fall into a spiral of ever-expanding demands on my time–where each individual ask is small, but the weight of the accumulated requests threatens to cause me to buckle, body and spirit. I think this is particularly insidious for those of us with resources. Good jobs, steady income, social capital are all good things I want to put to good use, but there has to be a time to just stop.

Many years ago here at St. Luke’s, a priest associate by the name of Molly McGreevy, of blessed memory, preached a terrific sermon on cutting back.

Molly described how she and her husband had bought a house with a lovely apple tree in the front yard. The first couple of years the tree produced apples, but fruit stopped coming after a few seasons. There were plenty of leaves, just no fruit. Concerned, Molly and Earl called an arborist, who said basically, “Oh, you haven’t pruned it. It needs pruning.” So they gave him the okay to go ahead, and went on with their day.

When they came home, the tree was nearly bare and had had limbs removed. The tree, to their eyes, looked dead. They were horrified, despite the specialist’s reassurances.

The next season, to Molly’s delight, the tree produced lots of apples. The tree had needed some care that looked painful, and looked destructive, but in reality was restoring it to its healthy, fruitful state.

People, families, ministries, and parishes all need to ask ourselves on a regular basis:

  • What needs pruning back?
  • Where are we no longer fruitful?
  • What could we look like with healthy trimming of unexamined commitments and demands?


  • Are we afraid that, having answered those questions, we will look selfish or lazy to those who have come to expect much from us?
  • What could grow if we trimmed back and left room?

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