The norm around here is 7 years. The last pastor got ill and had to leave. The one before him was here 10 years. It caused quite a stir when he left. People were too attached to him and his way of dong things, which caused great pain and suffering for the next priest, Which is why, in part, he left, discouraged, and hurt.
I was formerly working at a parish that had a Monsignor for 35 years. He was greatly admired by the parish (not necessarily in agreement with the Bishop) and so they left him at that rural parish to 1) because everybody liked him, 2) because the Bishop could not place him in a more liberal parish, and 3) because every time they said he was getting transferred he said he’d just retire. They didn’t have anyone extra and they needed him. He was quite elderly when they permitted him to retire.
Our current pastor has been here only 3 years. They couldn’t find anyone willing to take our parish because of the previous priest’s trouble with the parish. And our current Pastor “offered it up” so to speak to do the Bishop a favor, and everyone LOVES him.
He’s kind, and lets some of the sillier stuff go, and people have appreciated his methods of avoiding drama. A dear Monsignor friend of mine is one who is known for turning a parish around financially…so he gets sent in when a parish is in the red. He told me once that they (in this place, anyway) can refuse a transfer twice. After that, it’s go where they send you. So the priests are kind of reluctant to play that card, just in case they go somewhere they can’t abide. When they are transferred quickly, it generally means that there is a big need for their particular gifts in another problem location.
I kind of like that someone actually tracks their skill sets and places them accordingly. There are instances of other long placements though, and there some places that nobody want to tackle.
Oh, and we were told that is it considered bad form to try to tell the Bishop what you’re looking for. It’s his decision, and if you “ask” for someone, you’ll probably be assured NOT to get them. Plus, by the time the parishioners find out about the transfer, it’s all wrapped up and decided. The new guy has long been informed, but told to keep quiet, and your priest is already learning about his new place from his brother priests and packing.
You can, however, send a letter stating what a wonderful job the priest did, and that you are grateful for wisdom of the Bishop in selecting a replacement that will NO DOUBT be a blessing to your congregation and that you will do everything in your power to welcome the new Priest with open hearts and arms.