Rude Church Secretary

Has anyone had to go through a “gauntlet” to get to a priest? I called to try to see about confession with this priest (I really like him and how close he is to God) and this is how the conversation went:


ME: Good morning. Is the Father in I’d like to talk to him please?

VOICE: (Flat, angry tone you would use with a bad child) NO he’s NOT here today.

ME: Oh, I’m sorry, did I call on his his day off?

VOICE: (Impatient tone of voice–in a hurry) He’s been on vacation for a while so I have NO idea where he is or what’s going on!

ME: Oh is he still on vacation?

VOICE: (Sarcastic edge) I GUESS!

LONG UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE (no offer to take a message, say “get lost” “Drop dead” nothing)

ME: Uh… OK I guess I’ll try back another time. Goodbye. (I hung up)

I didn’t expect to go through all that to talk to a priest! I felt like I needed to apologize for even calling at all. This bums me out. I really wanted to talk to this priest as he seemed to radiate a deep spirituality I was drawn to but I don’t want to deal with THAT. It worked, I’m NEVER calling THERE again.

My question: Should I let the priest know? They can’t be drawing in any new people with THAT phone etiquette. :mad:

She could have been having a bad day or the parish office could have been crazy. I work in a parish ) and sometimes there are so many people in the office and things are going on and everyone is wanting the receptionists attention. We have 4 incoming lines and sometimes they are all going off at once. You could have been the upteenth person calling looking for the priest and she was just tired of saying the same thing. I am not saying that it was OK for her to be rude, but its just that you don’t know what was going on that had her respond in such a way.

Our receptionist is asked to screen calls for the priests. They often get calls that can be answered by someone else in the office (usually me or the pastor’s administrative assistant). If a person starts asking questions about the priest, his whereabouts when he’s coming back, etc, and she doesn’t know the answer, many time people get mad at her. But the priests didn’t give her any information so she can’t answer.

Give her the benifit of the doubt. She should have asked, however, if you wanted to leave a message.

Thanks! I was just a little shocked at the brusqueness.

Yuk! I hate it when this happens. I’ve had the same thing happen to me before.

Nothing is worse than a rude religious person. It makes all of us look bad.

I’d tell your priest, immediately. This is totally not acceptable behavior.

Is flogging allowed?

I remember calling to seek advice from a priest in a different parish once. he was farily brisk if not down right rude. I left thinking fairly poorly of him. a few years later he ended up in my parish and now regard him as a very friendly devoted holy priest, possible one of the nicest i’ve ever had the plessure of meeting. even the best of us just have off days.

Bad day or not, the secretary is the first contact that someone has with the Church when calling, same with dentist’s offices, doctor’s offices etc. All these secretaries are expected to take care of business in a polite fashion, I would think the secretary at the Church needs some people training… even if she’s only there as a volunteer.

From my understanding, it sounds like she was almost showing how angry she was at the priest himself, not good. She could have asked you to hold on if too much was happening at once, she could have asked if you wanted to talk to someone else, she could have asked if she could take a message. There was absolutely no excuse for the way you describe her attitude.

Yes, I would tell the priest about how you were treated.

Oo, not nice. :frowning:

FWIW, I used to work in municipal government and took care of some high-level people while I was there. I’ve found it helpful since then, when dealing with secretaries, to modify my own phone conversations according to what I experienced.

So if I was to call, I’d probably say, “Hi! My name is Midori, and I really liked Fr. X. I wanted to ask about the possibility of getting on his schedule for Confession?” You’ve identified yourself (even if the secretary doesn’t know you from Adam, anonymous phone calls can be tiring, and people are more likely to be friendly when they’ve got a name attached to the other end of the line); you’ve told her who you want to speak with, in case he’s available; and you’ve told her what you want, in case there’s someone else who can help you in his absence or if he doesn’t normally book his own schedule at all.

She still has the opportunity to be brusque, but remember— your conversation is all about you getting on his calendar for Confession, not digressing into his mysterious habits of dropping off the face of the earth without a word to his staff. :slight_smile: By keeping the conversation on what you want from her, she has less opportunity to take out her stress and rudeness on you over the course of a tangent. Sorry you had to deal with that kind of unpleasantness. :frowning:

Was this prior to your “Welcome home” confession of June 23 which you told us about on this thread? If so, the phone call had to have been five or six days ago so maybe it is time to let it go.

If it is a new confession, maybe you should have just waited for the regular confession hours rather than calling the office to ask for a special appointment with that particular priest or looked for a church which offers confession at a time which is more convenient for you rather than making a personal appointment. We all have our favorite priests and some of us have regular confessors. But if it was so urgent that you needed confession ASAP, then the sacrament is the sacrament and any validly ordained priest could have administered it. you could have called a monastery, went to the local cathedral and pulled the priest aside just before evening Mass, found a church with a 7:00 AM Mass and stood outside the vestry at 6:50, etc.

Either way, we pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” at every Mass. We have to forgive before we become open to forgiveness. All the receptionist did was to hurt your pride, not give you the respect you feel you deserve, when in reality, every single one of us have treated others with far less respect. We probably deserve to be treated with disrespect given how we have treated others, and really deserve to be thrown into Hell for eternity for our sins.

With all due respect, I get treated that way every day by my teenage daughter. Let it go. Bake the woman some homemade chocolate chip cookies and give them to her with a card saying that you sensed she might have been having a bad day and that you wanted to cheer her up.

There really is no need for all the drama.



the proper catholic response.

Yes, there is, and it’s not drama.

For all we know, she could be doing this to everybody. Maybe people who are interested in the church become turned off because of her attitude. Goodness knows I would be turned off by that nasty attitude.

This sort of thing really does matter. There is always a protestant church close by with secretaries ready to greet people with a smile. I have seen many people leave the Church because of this type of behavior.


“turn the other cheek” is noble, but NOT the answer to every question in the world.

That was rude.

Reminds me of the time my father rang the priest’s office to ask something on behalf of my 90+ year old grandfather - the secretary answered and he heard the priest in the background say “tell him I’m not here!”

I have to side with OP. Those of us working in parish offices, particulary the ones in the front office and who answer the phone, are the official face of the church to many people, and the first impression many will form about the church and the parish starts with that first contact.

That being said I will only observe that there are not many ways to say, “No the pastor is not here and I don’t know when he will return.” And when the secretary says that it is literally true.

Have you ever had a bad day?have you ever snapped at somebody because something else was bothering you.Even church secretaries can be in bad mood.Try to forget it and be patient.Call back at a later time .Im sure this person isn’t always like this else she wouldn’t be allowed to remain.

This is excellent advice. Yes, the secretary was rude if the conversation did happen like that, but we as callers can help the situation out too. We need to be clear about who we are,why we are calling and what we want. Leading someone through twenty questions doesn’t help.

Im confused.Why does wishing for politeness have to mean pride?
Isn’t it just social norms that wish everyone talk polite to each other?

That said,could it maybe be not that she was meaning to be/sound rude,but rather that she was confused/flabbergasted/frustrated that she didnt know where the priest was?
Hypothetically,if there was a situation where she didnt know the priests whereabouts or what’s going on,and that that was causing difficulties for her,and she was left to deal with the office and phonecalls etc then she might have been frustrated and that may have come across like she was being rude.
Just a suggestion.

I have met very few nice catholic seceriteries. Its an endemic problem. If there jobs were as dependant as mine on customer service then they’d of been gone ages ago.

I have to imbue this on my staff ALL the time. It dosnt matter if you are having a bad day. If you are, and can’t behave like each customer is worth 1mill $ then take the day off. I dont care if they are the 89th person to walk in the open door at 2pm past the 30inch sign with 8inch letters that say we’re open till 5pm and ask if we’re open.

(or the customers who come and pound on the door wanting a 50cent candy …or better yet to “look around” when we’ve been closed for 2hrs and the place is dark and locked)

being nice is manditory. No matter what.

It’s not really a “big deal” to me other than being a little upset…I will shake it off. But what if someone was calling to sign up for the RCIA classes they are advertising and she acted like that?

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