Friday, July 20, 2007

Missionary Priesthood

Many people often ask me if I'd like to join a missionary order and I simply answer, 'I am, England is most definitley mission territory.'

Today however I was chatting with my PP and he gave me another reason to realise I am studying for the missions. He said priests should spend no more than 3 years in a parish and if he were Bishop he would ensure that. I found this very interesting because it would solve a few complications such as the parish getting together to sign a petition when it comes to the time for Father to move on after 20 years or whatever. It would stop the parishioners seeing the priest as their mate and more as their priest, addressing him as 'Father' rather than their Christian name or even a shortened version of their Christian name. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my brothers at seminary when someone mentioned how the queue for confession shrinks dramatically when John becomes everybody's friend rather than the Parish Priest. I have actually seen this happen, a priest has been in the parish for 12 years or so, is invited to a parishioners house every night, calls them his friends and confessions are offered 15 minutes before Mass on Saturday evening because no one goes.

When my last Parish Priest was moved he told the people not to abandon the parish as a result because it was all part of the mission. At the time I laughed but now realise it is true, Jesus didn't send the apostles out and tell them to stay in the villages for 10 years, they went in to prepare the people for His coming and left again.

The only reason priests stay in parishes for so long, I think, is because there simply aren't enough of them to go around. This is another reason we must pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers into the Harvest so that we can keep the mission going.


RomanCatholic Deacon said...

I think that's a great idea! We just got 2 new priests at the local Franciscan parish and what a wonderful change! Their spirituality is totally different from the last two. I see great things happening there. New blood usually brings new ideas and gets us out of the rut.
Speaking of shortage of priests, Vietnam seems to be doing something right as per this story from News:
Bui Chu (Agenzia Fides) - Good news continues to arrive from the Catholic Church in Vietnam. Recently 50 deacons were ordained priests in the diocese of Bui Chu (suffragan of the archdiocese of Hanoi), in Nam Dinh Province, northern Vietnam. Bishop Joseph Hoang Van Tien ordained 50 priests, 45 of Bui Chu diocese and five from the diocese of Bac Ninh, the diocese of Phat Diem and a local community of Dominicans.
In NY we had a few Vietnamese priests who celebrated Mass very devoutly and usually sang it. At least that's the way it sounded, beautiful!
Blessings from Florida+
Deacon John

Anonymous said...

Many priests don't like being called 'Fr Smith' but ask the parishioners to call him 'Fr John' or just 'John'. Many priests see themselves as just 'one of the boys', no different to anyone else which is why they play down the sacrament of reconciliation and never talk about transubstantiation because they are the two things that only a priest can do. With priests like these is it any wonder that the Church is in the mess it is.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The Church has always seen the ideal as being a priest appointed and then staying in a parish until he dies. The same with a bishop. Hence the great Augustine in the one horse town of Hippo. The model is marriage, hence the title "Father". He belongs to the parish and the parish to him. The obvious example is the Cure D'Ars.
The relationship between priest and people is supposed to be the relationship between Christ and his bride, it is not superficial or transient. I see no problem with the priest being the friend of his parishioners, that is the term Jesus uses with disciples, and for the most part evangelisation comes through something as simple as friendship.

There was a study done in the diocese of Marseilles, if I remember rightly, where in one area of the diocese priests were moved every six years or so and in another where they were rarely moved, the first area's lapsation rate was three times as high as the area were priests remained.
Constant movement tends to mean authority rests with parish committees and bishops, and priests become sacramental functionaries and long term projects are never undertaken.
There are also very serious effects on priestly morale, they tend not to root themselves anywhere and develop an attitude of never bringing things to fruition or merely being superficial.
In a parish like mine, were a third of the parish will move out every year, I am the only stable thing in many peoples lives, the only person to remember a dead child or spouse. A very important cultic priestly function is to "remember" not just the stories of the faith but also the the joys and tragedies of being human.

Anonymous said...

If a priest is orthodox and Faithful to the Magisterium there is no problem with him remaining in the parish for a number of years but if he is a priest who sees the Mass as his own plaything and Rome as a bogey then the cult that develops around him and his way of doing things can make it very difficult for the incoming priest when the pp is replaced upon retirement. I have seen this in two parishes in my state.

Nothing at all wrong with the priest being a friend of the parishioners but when the friendship means that the priest is no different to his parishioners then there is a problem because an ontological change happens to the man when he is ordained.

Anonymous said...

Just go to St Vincent's Redfern NSW to see what happens when a priest turns a parish into his own fiefdom.

Hugh Bourne said...

Fr Blake is right, I lived in a parish that had three parish priests in seven years, the numbers attending Mass fell by half, and lay people who had been "on courses" took over and introduced every innovation imaginable, so much so that no orthodox priest ever stepped foot in our parish.
It was dreadful.

Anonymous said...

The Oratorians however vow to stay in one particular Oratory..