The Corporate Associate: Effectively Addressing the Affective Needs of the Newly Ordained

Pastors of corporate parishes should recognize the need in their newly ordained priest associates to express themselves, or they will stunt their growth as both priests and human beings … a man … stunted in his humanity … will be stunted in his priestly identity and ministry.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore held its Convocation for Priests almost a year ago (September 11-13,  2012), where the speaker, Rev. J. Ronald Knott of the Archdiocese of Louisville, a priest ordained around forty years ago, delivered talks on the need for unity within the presbyterate. Among other topics, he highlighted the importance of the first five years of a priest’s life after ordination. He pointed out a disparity between seminary life and life in a parish, and he cited loneliness as the prime reason offered for leaving the priesthood for this group of priests.

I personally know of several cases of newly ordained priests who, within months of their ordination, began in-patient, residential treatment for serious difficulties of various types. I am aware of several priests who have left the priesthood, either of their own volition or through force of circumstance. The tag-word “loneliness” is a descriptor, which, in effect, describes an emotional state concerning the man leaving the priesthood. I would suggest that the nature of this loneliness requires further scrutiny and should be evaluated in light of several areas that require attention within the priestly formation process in general. 1 This essay seeks to explore some of the issues facing the newly ordained as associate pastors within a corporate parish setting with an emphasis on the affective needs of the celibate man.

Major Assignments
I first served as a pastoral year seminarian for a parish of 4,200 families, and then as a deacon, under the direction of a pastor who was formerly the diocesan vocations director. He provided clearly written expectations for my service to the parish, and identified rules for rectory life, and other requirements. He also solicited my input for what I expected out of my pastoral year in the parish. I asked for instruction in every area of the parish in preparation for pastoring my own parish someday. He accommodated this request by having biweekly, one-on-one sessions in liturgical preparations of various sorts (weddings, funerals, baptisms); pastoral encounters (hospice circumstances, hospital calls, visits to the homebound); instruction in Canon Law (pertaining primarily to marriage/annulments); human resource issues (hiring, firing, compensation, bonuses); and a host of other topics. The sessions were comprehensive and exceeded my expectations. I also worked with various other staff members to gain insight into their ministries, and for guidance in ministerial circumstances. For instance, the parish nurse helped me to understand certain family dynamics, especially within hospice and long-term care situations. We will refer to this as my first assignment to distinguish these experiences as we discuss them further below.

My first placement as a priest in a 3,400-family parish also had clearly stated goals, such as maintenance of schedules for priests, deacons, seminarians, and sacristans; responsibility for all aspects of the Liturgy; general office duties; visiting several homebound parishioners monthly in rotation with other pastoral visitors; training altar servers; and saying Mass for the school on a monthly basis. I served as chaplain to a nursing home, where I said monthly Mass and offered the sacraments, as requested. I was also invited by parish groups, such as RCIA, to provide talks on various topics. I was also free to offer my own lecture series, since this is something that I enjoy doing. Thus, there were some duties that I was wholly responsible for, whereas some others could be accomplished by a layperson or another priest. As a rule, the pastor shared virtually all priestly functions with me, such as being the principal celebrant for Triduum services and first communion group Masses, among others. It is assumed that priests will hear confessions, say daily and weekend Masses, perform weddings, baptisms, and funerals in rotation with the pastor or other priests. I assume that most parish priests perform these duties. We will refer to this as my second assignment.

My second placement as a priest in a 4,900-family setting also had clearly articulated goals, which included coordinating clergy for the men’s and women’s retreat groups; coordinating clergy for the major penance services; serving as chaplain to the school; offering an adult education series during Advent and Lent; and serving those with special needs. We will refer to this as my third assignment.

The Corporate Parish Model
All of my placements have been in corporate parish settings. A corporate parish usually has many parishioners, and many buildings, that constitute the parish: church, rectory, maintenance buildings, and possibly a school; and is run by a pastor, normally with one or multiple associates assisting him. The pastor functions as a CEO, managing the usually substantial resources—human and financial—and ensuring that the buildings and grounds are properly addressed. He has a (large) staff that accomplishes the tasks that run the parish. These are now the only parishes that can afford to have associate pastors assigned to them, because of the cost. Consultation may be sought, but he is the chief decision-maker. I am most concerned with how the pastor and the established staff view the associate pastor or pastoral year seminarian/deacon, since I believe that this directly impacts the experience the man will have.

In assignment one, the pastor served a teaching and mentoring role. He had a clear-cut plan for my engagement in the parish. But he was also open to my expectations for what I wanted out of the experience, and he delivered in an exceptional way. I did ask to be able to offer adult education opportunities for the parish, but, as is the case in many large parishes, this was not possible, because room for meetings was a constant source of difficulty for the more than fifty groups that met at the parish. Although my experience here was phenomenal and met my expectations, my inability to express myself cannot be underestimated. A creative outlet for self-expression fosters one’s need for intimacy, especially for the celibate man.

In assignment two, I was now a priest, so my activities were different from my first assignment; however, the pastor had clear-cut duties for me to perform. Additionally, he was also open to my request to give talks on various topics—something I enjoyed doing. The liturgical ministers were more or less receptive to some changes, but this was an excellent learning opportunity for me in group dynamics. Everything need not be positive for a positive growth experience. The pastor was also open to sharing virtually any ministry. For instance, I was permitted to perform the Good Friday service, which was traditionally done by another priest from outside the parish. I was able to express myself, but there were other issues that affected this experience.

In assignment three, a fluid sharing of ministries with the pastor was not present. Additionally, though the duties were clearly articulated, upon further scrutiny, it was clear that the duty list was generic and did not affect the parish, or its goals, in any major way. Most of my duties could be performed by either a layperson, or any other priest. Seldom was I personally required to perform any duty, apart from saying Mass or hearing confessions. If an associate’s duties can be performed by anyone, then one’s identity as a priest does not receive positive reinforcement. The already established staff, and its goals, matter; the associate’s affective needs do not. This is a difficult situation to be in at the affective level for a newly ordained, corporate associate.

In sum, I would say that where I had the opportunity to participate fully in the life of the parish community, and felt that I was making a positive contribution, the experience was more positive. Additionally, if I was able to express myself through some unique activity, such as a teaching opportunity, the experience was more positive. Experiences were negative where I was unable to express myself, or where I recognized that my personal contribution was irrelevant, lacking in value, or was a circumstance where I personally did not matter.

Professional Staff
When I worked in Information Technology (IT), my job was classified as “professional staff,” in contradistinction to a designation of “hourly staff,” “faculty,” or “administration.” Someone offered the definition of “professional staff” as a job that, if you aren’t there, it doesn’t get done. If we examine this understanding further, then the sense is that whoever is hired as a professional staff employee has a specific skillset that only he or she can perform. This has its pluses and minuses. With reduced manpower, it follows that more and more roles, formerly performed by priests, would be assumed by laypeople classified as “professional staff.” But a problem develops when a priest is assigned to a corporate parish where his sole function is, in effect, to be a sacramental minister.

Priestly Identity
Every priest must perform what I refer to as “anonymous ministry” to some degree, meaning that the priest functions as a sacramental minister, in certain cases. His identity is irrelevant, as is the identity of the persons whom he is serving. If someone calls for the “last rites,” a priest responds and he anoints the person. The operative terms here are “the person” and “a priest.” It does not matter which priest responds. Any will do.

However, anonymous ministry cannot be the dominant ministerial experience for a newly ordained priest. Otherwise, he will never recognize his unique role as an individual who is a priest, nor his particular charism from ordination; nor will he establish meaningful and fulfilling relationships with people, which is necessary to feed one’s need for intimacy.

The faculty at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, where I attended the seminary, emphasized that the moral state of the minister does not interfere with the validity of the sacrament being performed. However, overstating this aspect of the connection between the priest and the layperson to whom he ministers, depersonalizes that priest, and what he offers as a human being, while exaggerating the priestly power operating through him. Be that as it may, there is no such thing as priesthood without a man who is ordained a priest. The person of the priest does matter. This is the aspect that priests ordained for many years, and diocesan officials looking to fill vacancies in parishes, ignored in the placement of newly ordained priests in corporate parishes. Since the corporate parish can afford to have associates assigned there, those assigning them assume that it will have sufficient activities for the priest to perform in light of its size. This is probably true. However, many of the “meaningful” ministries are now being performed by “professional staff” lay employees. The corporate associate is left out of the equation with no meaningful work, since an established staff has already covered all of the bases. Participation by the corporate associate may be ancillary at best. He may be relegated solely to anonymous ministry, and have no deep-seated relationship with the people of the parish. A priest must be fulfilled at an intimate level in what he is doing, or his affective needs will be malnourished. 2 Though many people do not have meaningful work, most are not celibate, and are free to pursue other employment options. The priesthood is a lifestyle sacrament, so fulfillment comes through living out the priesthood by performing the sacraments. However, connections with people are not incidental—they are what feed the affective needs of the celibate man.

Fulfilling Ministry
I recall that when I first started performing funerals after ordination, I felt empty and depressed. It took several meetings with families about their funeral arrangements, and their loved ones (funeral intakes), before I recognized the problem. The pastoral associate, who offered to guide me through the process of working with a grieving family for funeral arrangements, never stepped aside to let me do the intakes myself, until I stopped inviting her. When I began taking the lead without her, I felt fulfilled by the experience because I was now connecting with the family in their time of need, and there was a genuine emotional connection. A genuine emotional connection feeds a human being’s need for intimacy, which is what nurtures celibacy. I initially needed the instruction from the pastoral associate; this is true. But, I also needed to continue on my own. Empowerment is key. Turf is not. If I had not recognized my emotional need, and asserted my wish to perform the intakes, I would have neglected my affective needs. This recognition is essential to the life of the newly ordained priest.

I still recall a funeral director asking me early on in my priestly ministry how far I would have to ascend in the Church hierarchy before I “would no longer have any contact with people.” The pastoral associate was performing her job well, since the pastor, a priest ordained forty years, had so many duties, that he seldom performed intakes, as I could. I am not faulting this process, nor am I oblivious to the reality of the responsibilities of the pastor. But I am articulating the need of a newly ordained priest for meaningful personal contact with people in intimate circumstances, such as dealing with a family’s grief. I declined assistance offered by the pastoral associate in my third assignment for precisely this reason.

Loneliness
When the need for intimacy is not fulfilled, then loneliness will creep in, particularly in the life of the celibate. One might think that “doing” more would alleviate loneliness—perhaps it could take one’s mind off it. However, loneliness is not positively affected simply by contact with people, or engaging in activity; it is affected by contact with reality which “feeds” intimacy. When a man feels alone, he is yearning for intimate contact with people, but he may confuse a lively, crowded venue with a meaningful encounter. He might ask at a parish event: “With so many people around, how could I be lonely?”

People by themselves do not affect loneliness. Deep-seated emotional connections do. However, if he “sits” with his loneliness for a while, acknowledging it, and accepting it, he will begin to wean himself of the need for the “thrill factor” of the superficial contact with people, that is, the pull of the crowd, and he will enjoy himself—another form of intimacy—from within. Enjoyment of one’s self is what I call solitude. When one is comfortable being with one’s self, a precursor to being oneself, he will then also be in a position to enjoy other people, so that he no longer “needs” them for the rush they provide. 3 A person may accept encounters when they come; he does not “need” them. The movement from loneliness to solitude is necessary for a person to be secure in himself/herself, no matter one’s state in life. But a celibate, especially, must be comfortable with his or her loneliness. I have met married people who are lonely, so there are no guarantees in coupling. But the celibate must confront this, since the opportunities for feeding emotional needs present themselves differently for celibates than for married people, though the same nourishing “food” is required.

But my own personal experience and reading have helped me to recognize that if I am viewed as a priest who happens to be me, rather than as myself who happens to be a priest, I will not be fulfilled by the experience. When priestly identity and personal identity meld together without distinction, which will take some time, I envision that I will be able to deflect the objectification more readily because I will be comfortable with my identity as a priest. As a newly ordained priest, this has not yet taken place.

I have spoken with several priests, with years of ministerial experience, who wish to be sacramental ministers. Overuse of anonymous sacramental ministry, however, is detrimental to the development of the newly ordained, because there are no specific bonds fostering celibacy through the nurturing of their emotional selves. The newly ordained need meaningful contact with people in order to reinforce their experience of celibacy in their affective lives. I have found that many weddings and group baptisms can be superficial and unfulfilling events; they are of the anonymous ministerial variety, despite these festive occasions. Confessions tend to be soul-nurturing experiences. Of course, there are exceptions, but the point is that meaningful, intimate experiences are necessary to nurture the celibate lifestyle. The corporate parish, through its assignment of duties, can force the newly ordained into too much anonymous ministry, which is detrimental to his growth as a celibate. If the celibate cannot fulfill his need for intimacy through healthy means, he will be drawn to unhealthy ones. 4

Containers
A “container” is a family, group, system, institution, or community that offers a predefined set of values and expectations with which an individual can interact. It simultaneously protects the individual while expecting something in return. However, the container must become a part of the individual; otherwise, it will be a superficial protector. The container’s purpose is to foster the growth of the individual, and the container itself, through the growth of both.

If the container called “priesthood” cannot provide a fulfilling experience to the newly ordained priest, then he will be “forced” to leave and seek another container to fulfill the real human need for intimacy, especially as his priestly identity is formed. Containers, such as the military, religious life, or marriage, provide safe boundaries in which one can be a “self.” They also provide a level of accountability. Without boundaries, commitment, and accountability, recognizing one’s “self” is very difficult, if not impossible. While Catholic institutions appreciate virginity as a value to be cherished, most other institutions treat it as a transitional state in life which leads to marriage, the ultimate, underlying container. Influenced by this view, if virginity (celibacy in the priesthood) does not “work” for a newly ordained priest, he presumes the need for marriage. Thus, the trend among the newly ordained who leave the priesthood is to marry (or find a partner) shortly after leaving.

Extraordinary Form
Fr. Knott, the priest I heard speaking at the Convocation for priests last year, noted that some younger priests have said that they look forward to his generation of priests dying, or words to that effect. I have heard similar statements myself. Fr. Knott commented that he was formed both before the Second Vatican Council, and after it, and was ordained in about 1970. This “best of both worlds” sense can be misleading, since Fr. Knott’s formation was begun, and continued, by people who were formed prior to Vatican II. The priest who taught liturgy at the seminary I attended referred to the years immediately following the Council as “the experimental period.” Some are still experimenting. The “Extraordinary Form” of the Mass may be seen as another experiment.

Recently, a priest in his late 60s told me that he had attended the Extraordinary Form of the Mass with a colleague. He said that he was transported back to his childhood days, and spoke in positive terms about the experience. He said that he had sat up front in the church, but took the opportunity to look behind him this Sunday, and noted hundreds of young faces looking back at him. He was surprised by this.

I suggested to him that these Catholics, and the priests and seminarians who are going in this direction, are looking for a “container” in which they can “see” or “recognize” themselves; a container where they can feel safe. The rubrics and priestly identity under the Extraordinary Form are clear. You need to be able to perform the rite, which takes a good amount of time to learn, and you have to know Latin. This special training means that this is a “professional staff” position, and only certain qualified people can perform it, or help at it. Like it or not, only the ordained, or those studying for the priesthood, function at the altar. High Mass requires an even broader set of skills to be mastered and executed, but the choir members, or cantor, also need special training. “Special” is the operative term.

I find that Mass said in corporate parishes is liturgically impoverished, probably because of the number of Masses offered there, but it has nothing to do with the rite. 5 It has been my experience that even a Mass in which the choir sings, does not involve or work with the celebrant; the priest seems ancillary to the group’s attempts at musical expression. Again, this may be due to the rotation of priests who say the many Masses within the corporate parish setting. However, when every Mass opts for the lowest common denominator, especially on the part of the priest, liturgy goes flat, because the identity of the priest has been weakened—as has the worship of God. In an environment where nothing, especially the worship of God, is special, and the place of the priest has been made largely irrelevant, it baffles me that this sense of liturgical expression is normative.

Those who are now pastors in corporate parishes, ordained at the cusp of the changes after Vatican II, have an unclear priestly identity at best. Vocations thrive in places where identity is clear-cut, as in the case of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville Dominicans). In an environment where the Extraordinary Form is observed, priestly identity is clear. Such vocations, however, will not tend toward a diocesan vocation, since they could be co-opted to serve in sometimes anti-clerical environments. I believe the lack of vocations is reflective of a lack of understanding about priestly identity, and this is reflected in liturgical practice. I believe that this is what is meant by those who look negatively upon priests with 40 years of priestly service, many of whom are currently pastors. They were formed under pre-Vatican II methodologies, but they reflect post-Vatican II, or even an experimental sense of the liturgy, which looks negatively on anything coming from before Vatican II. In many ways, they seem to have split personalities as far as their priesthood goes. I have met a lot of hostility toward the Extraordinary Form among priests from this era. One pastor, ordained for 40 years, forbade his corporate associate from singing the orations at Mass, because he said that it reflected “his traditionalist bent.” Yet, the seminary the pastor attended is teaching that every priest should work toward the goal of being able to sing the orations and Preface at Mass. Priestly identity is confused.

Development of Priestly Identity within a Real Human Being
Pastors of corporate parishes should recognize the need in their newly ordained priest associates to express themselves, or they will stunt their growth as both priests and human beings. If a man is stunted in his humanity, he will be stunted in his priestly identity and ministry. Statements by pastors to new associates, such as: “I’m not your friend” or “I didn’t ask for you,” which are actual quotes, are counterproductive, but they illustrate the problem that dioceses face. The pastor is known to be a pastorally insensitive individual, but the corporate parish he leads is one of a shrinking number with enough resources to support an associate pastor, so the diocese is forced to assign an associate there. We thus learn that the cause of a man’s departure from the priesthood is described as “loneliness.” But in fact, the diocese failed him by assigning him to a parish that did not foster his vocation. His pastor failed him by not providing him with meaningful ministerial experiences; his parish community failed him by not accepting him as both a priest and human being; and the seminary failed him by not providing him with the tools needed to lead a celibate life. Nonetheless, we say that he left the priesthood due to loneliness, and we accept this as his failure to adapt.

Priests from the Society of St. Sulpice, whose mission is to prepare priests in seminaries, wrote the following:

Institutionally, a priest’s personal commitment must be supported … It is equally important for a priest to feel that his voice counts in larger decisions. Inclusion in decision-making treats men both as adult professionals and as dedicated priests. In doing so, all a priest’s commitments are reinforced, celibacy included. Mentoring programs for newly ordained, prompt attention to priests in trouble, and provision for the elderly are all signs of institutional care and respect that reinforce priestly life in general, and celibate commitment in particular. Wise, fair, and even-handed policies on appointments and transfers have the same effect. 6

Institutionally, a priest’s personal commitment must be supported … It is equally important for a priest to feel that his voice counts in larger decisions. Inclusion in decision-making treats men both as adult professionals and as dedicated priests. In doing so, all a priest’s commitments are reinforced, celibacy included. Mentoring programs for newly ordained, prompt attention to priests in trouble, and provision for the elderly are all signs of institutional care and respect that reinforce priestly life in general, and celibate commitment in particular. Wise, fair, and even-handed policies on appointments and transfers have the same effect. 7

It’s time to recognize that in a top-down system, as the military is, and as the Church is, leadership is usually the prime issue. The diocesan bishop is where the buck stops when it comes to the formation of his priests. He is the only one with the ability to effect necessary changes. If we do not treat priests, especially newly ordained priests, as real human beings, then it is only a matter of time before they leave. I am not advocating optional celibacy in light of the discussion above. I am noting the affective needs of newly ordained priests, which are being ignored.

Conclusion
I believe that addressing the needs of newly ordained priests placed in corporate parishes is not a lofty goal. I would recommend the following 11 points:

  1. Meaningful work for which the priest is responsible and accountable;
  2. Ministry opportunities that provide meaningful exchanges between priest and person(s) being ministered to;
  3. Ministry opportunities that take into account the priest’s gifts;
  4. Minimizing anonymous ministry as much as possible;
  5. Holding laypeople to the same accountability standards as priests;
  6. Lovingly correcting an associate’s rough edges, and not inviting outside figures in which would prevent needed growth opportunities;
  7. Assigning associates to pastors who care about their success and can act as mentors, and, if this is not possible, assigning an optional mentor for the associate;
  8. Receiving instruction in the value and challenges of celibacy;
  9. Having the diocesan bishop connect with his newly ordained priests, especially during the first year, and inviting feedback about parochial experiences;
  10. Providing names of priests to serve as holy and sound spiritual directors;
  11. Providing contacts for priest support groups.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does underscore some of the needs of newly ordained priests. I have expressed my fear to the archbishop of Baltimore that, given the circumstances that I have seen and experienced, I wonder if the archdiocese cares about its priests. Presbyteral unity is superficial if there is no trust in the container called the diocese. The corporate parish has its positive aspects, but we also need to recognize its negative ones, otherwise priests will continue to leave the priesthood and be described as “lonely,” when steps could have been taken to assist newly ordained priests with the dignity they deserve in Christ.

 

  1. Please see http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/priesthood/priestly-life-and-ministry/national-plan-for-the-ongoing-formation-of-priests.cfm (as of 10/10/12) for the United States Bishops’ National Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, which addresses some of the concerns addressed here within a larger context.
  2. See Rev. James P. Burns, Ph. D., “Sexual Health: A Christian Perspective,” Human Development, 32 (2011), 10-16.
  3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community {New York: Harper and Row, 1954} 77) writes: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community.” (Emphasis in original.)
  4. Dr. R. P. Fitzgibbons (“Identifying, Resolving Loneliness in Priestly Life” in The Priest, {September 1989}: 10-17, here 11) writes: “Other behaviors, which are attempts to rise above the hurt of loneliness, include chronic masturbation, pornography, heterosexual or homosexual acting out, voyeurism, pedophilia, and a preoccupation with dirty jokes. Still other compulsive behaviors include compulsive television watching, eating, shopping, exercising and smoking.”
  5. See the same argument from a different perspective by Ted Rosean, “Two Rites Make a Wrong,” in U.S. Catholic (August 2009): 18-20. I agree with his conclusion that “{we} need to get more people to celebrate the existing rite well” (ibid.,20).
  6. H. Bleichner, SS, D. Buechlein, SS, R. Leavitt, SS, Celibacy for the Kingdom: Theological Reflections and Practical Perspectives (priv. pub.; Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1990) 27.
  7. H. Bleichner, SS, D. Buechlein, SS, R. Leavitt, SS, Celibacy for the Kingdom: Theological Reflections and Practical Perspectives (priv. pub.; Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1990) 27.
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avatar About Fr. Marc Lanoue

Fr. Marc Lanoue received his Ph.D. in biblical studies from the Catholic University of America, and a M.A. in theology from the University of Notre Dame. He attended St. Mary’s Seminary and University, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2009. He currently serves as associate pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Severna Park, Maryland.

Comments

  1. avatar Mohammad Cannon says:

    The Josephites ordained seven priests from Nigeria June 1 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The priests will be assigned to one of 40 Josephite parishes nationwide.

  2. Fr. Lanoue –
    Thank you for your insights and thoughts concerning the needs of newly-ordained priests, that they might better live their vocation for the good of the Church. I have often wondered about the depth and quality of the Christian fellowship shared by priests serving together and living together in a parish. I have often wondered, when priests speak of their “brother priests”, what is actually meant. Without a real, authentic and lived fellowship of brothers in Christ, I can’t imagine how a celibate life can be endured except as a direct embrace of the Cross.

    A hermit, by comparison, can live his Christian vocation in fellowship with Christ in prayer – and can offer his apparent solitude among men to authentic solidarity with men, through prayer. It is in a life of prayer-communion with God, that fruitful love can fill the heart and the days of a faithful hermit. Or an active lay man. Or, I would say, a very busy priest.

    I wonder about the quality and emphasis of spiritual formation of men in seminary, and the quality time for prayer available in seminary, and given as well after ordination. I would think that for priests the pressures for (and temptation to) “holy busyness,” reminiscent of the Martha and Mary passage in Luke, could be intense. One thing is necessary, Jesus taught – and for any in leadership among the faithful, I would say, it is “most necessary” – crucial, essential, foundational. We must have a deep, authentic, real personal communion with God in Christ – as Mary pictured for us, waiting and listening at the feet of Jesus.

  3. avatar JT says:

    I think it is great that you are addressing this issue. I am not really surprised by it because it is obvious to parishioners-especially those of us who left the Church and have come back. There is an emptiness to it and this is not how I remember the Church as a child. It is sad. I am not sure how it works as far as how long you wait to be a pastor, but I think you will be great at it and hope you start feeling more fulfilled as a priest. It is not just a job and should not be treated as such. Your responsibilities should leave you feeling fulfilled as a human being and a priest who finds peace in solitude.

  4. avatar Glenna says:

    I’m a little distressed to read this whole article & find no reference to the priest (young or old) & his relationship with God. There isn’t any place else for anyone to find fulfillment. Some of the loneliest people I know have been sleeping with their spouse for fifty years, so celibacy doesn’t have a corner on loneliness, thank goodness. I am thankful for that fact because loneliness is a God given drive to push us out of ourselves & toward Him, no matter what our state in life. When our relationship with God is solid, dynamic and integral, then the vagaries of a parish assignment or an inattentive spouse can more easily be dealt with.

  5. avatar JT says:

    Hopefully you can get out of the corporate parish model-especially those in which the parishioners may as well be living in a bubble. After reading this and going to church to hear a circus priest ask for money, I am ready to leave the Catholic faith. I do pray, I do have faith, and I do believe I have a growing relationship with God. Maybe it’s just time to step out of the institution.

  6. avatar Fr Paschal says:

    Excellent… excellent, excellent!

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