Every Priest had to start somewhere. Every Priest had to have a first Parish. It’s got to be very hard on them too. They have to make many adjustments every time they are moved.
Years ago it was just as you suggested, a priest often stayed at the same parish his whole life.
But for quite a while now most dioceses have policies about moving the priests regularly.
There are three main reasons:
It is1. good for the priest - not to get too attached to certain families and such
2. It is good for the people - not to get too attached to the priest, sometimes this devolves into a “cult of personality,” where the priest gets too puffed up from too many people putting him on a pedestal.
3. It is good for the bishop - good priests need to be rotated around so their gifts affect the most people possible, and unfortunately - less talented / poorer priests also need rotated around; so that no one parish is sentenced to such a priest for too long a time
In our archdiocese the term of pastor is 6 years, which then can be extended. Our last pastor was with us for about 10 years. The term for parochial vicor is 2 years I believe.
Well that is exactly the problem, you are not supposed to get too attached to a priest. We need to be attached to Jesus Christ. I had a priest tell us once "don’t follow me! I will lead your astray. Follow Jesus."
I’ve gotten attached to two priests from my parish who’ve left. One I still keep in touch with.
I understand that this is now the norm and the accepted thinking in the United States. Has been for quite some time. The older I get the more I disagree with all three points.
Good for families not to get too close to priests:. Hogwash. How many families still have the parish priest over to dinner regularly? How many kids get to be around priests in a normal family environment?
Good for priests? Yea, let’s make life as difficult as possible on our priests. Can’t have them developing long term friendships. That certainly isn’t healthy.
Good for Bishops? And we have reached a point to where too many bishops don’t see their first diocese as a life time assignment, just a stepping stone to someplace bigger and more prominent. After all, that careerism was ingrained in their mind while they were a priest.
Here in Pittsburgh, there are 3000 Catholics for every priest, if the priests ate regularly with a significant percentage of families, they would all weigh 600 pounds or more.
Some in our Parish do. I’ve wanted to since he’s been here but it just was never a good time for him or us. I actually asked him within the past few weeks but he has a special diet and while he doesn’t mind having other people cook for him when he gives them his dietary restrictions list he said he does have to turn down a few invitations because there are just too many people wanting him to visit and eat and he doesn’t have that much down time. He meets with a group of young married couples once a month and they pray and I’m sure have some type of food to eat. He also meets with other couples to socialize. He does house blessings and I’m sure they do a meal for him when he goes for those. It would be nice to just have him over to visit but he just really is busy and his calendar is pretty full. He’s taking off another 4 weeks soon to rest and I hope he does get the rest and peace he needs.
I find that moving priests has been a great advantage to our parish.
We have had a priest who
Was great with the children
Was a great fund raiser and planner
Who inspired many in the parish to private devotions
Who, when you spoke to him, you were the only person in his world for that moment
And each was a different priest. Each one had different charisma. When a new priest arrives, find out what gifts he has that God sent him to your parish and appreciate him for that.
I am not sure how to respond. You asked why priests don’t stay in the same place forever any longer.
I gave you three reasons why this is the case. They are not my reasons, they are the reasons the Church moves priests. Do you know that most priests, and most presbyteral councils overwhelmingly support the policy? Why would priests support a practice that is detrimental to themselves?
Most priest support groups and movements love the policy - why do you suppose that is? Do priests not know what is best for them?
What do you propose the Church does with priests that are not super-stars? Should their parishes simply resign themselves to the fact that they are stuck with them? Why not rotate both?
I understand it’s the accepted policy in the US, and has been a long enough that no one bothers to consider the wisdom of the policy. I understand your arguments for it. I simply do not see it as a good policy, and since US is almost unique wrt the policy I believe my arguments have validity. I certainly see nothing about American culture that would indicate the need for this in the US and not elsewhere
I’m just a deacon, a member of the lower-archy.
They are not my arguments, just ones that the Church uses.
I am curious what your thoughts are about the not-superstar priests. Would you leave them in the same parish forever? Why should parish X be deprived and parish Y rewarded? If you rotate them elsewhere, by necessity that means moving a beloved priest, too.
I gave him a chance and got confession from him and guess what before I could even finish giving my confession he was like “and for your penance 2 Hail Marys” I wasn’t even finish I was only in the confessional for like 2-3 minutes I didn’t have the guts to tel him that I wasn’t finished I’m a very non confrontational person
By all means interrupt him!
With as hard as it is to get people motivated to go to Confession, we want you served completely.
The Sacrament of Penance is medicine for our spiritual lives - you shouldn’t let the doctor prescribe medicine until you are done discussing your symptoms.
Just politely interrupt him and say, “Fr. I wasn’t finished confessing my sins.”
And thank you for availing yourself of this awesome sacrament!
Deacon Christopher, I am sorry for my late reply. I meant to respond the other day and forgot all about it until last night. Anyway, here goes my thoughts on the subject:
Initial note: I am talking about pastors of parishes, not parochial vicars or assistant priests.
You talk about good priests who need to be rotated around to share their gifts and less talented/poorer priests who need to be rotated so that one parish is not sentenced to such a priest for a long time. Well, my experience is that most pastors are pretty dang good. Since I have been at my current parish for 25 years, we have had 5 pastors, all good except for one and he left due to scandal after about a year (note: for the initial few months he was there, he was widely popular, go figure). Non super-stars? I don’t know the meaning, if it is the opposite of a super-star pastor, well those never work out the best either. I go to two other parishes for daily masses on a regular basis, their pastors are very good. I rarely hear friends and family really complain about their pastors. So I do not think the problem you point out is a wide-spread as indicated. And I am not talking about every pastor being left at a parish indefinitely. At any given point of time, the Bishop should be able to figure out what is best for a parish. If the problems are severe enough Canon law gives the Bishop fairly wide latitude.
More importantly, what I think should be the norm is the sense of permanency. Lots of things change in life and pastors most times will move away for one reason or another after a given period of time, but the ideal is to develop a fatherly relationship with his parishioners. To know them, understand them, know their needs, etc. This takes time and once its built up, it is invaluable.
You state two of the reasons for moving priests after 6 or 12 years:
- good for the priest - not to get too attached to certain families and such and 2) not to get too attached to the priest…
Again, I understand this is the common thinking, but if one steps back a second it truly is a bizarre way of thinking. Its what we are use to , but it is an example of “normalization of deviancy”, something becomes the norm and well accepted even through it makes little or no sense. Why would we not want a pastor to development a close, fatherly attachment to his parishioiners and their families? Why would we not want families to grow close and attached to their pastor?
You do give one reason (for why we would not want families to grow close to their pastor): sometimes this devolves into a “cult of personality. Again this is overstated, and would actually be less of a problem with a long-term pastor than a short term one. Over time, a pastor is going to do something to irritate almost anyone, especially if he is really being a good shepherd to his people. So he won’t be considered some sort of walking saint normally. Indeed, there will be a level of comfort and true love development between the pastor and his parishioners that preclude this from happening. But now it does develop, we have all seen it. Why? a pastor’s reputation follows him from parish to parish. If someone gets the reputation of a super-star, when he is reassigned to a parish expectations are exceedingly high, and he is immediately placed upon that pedestal. I have seen this happen, and it leads to disappointment on both sides.
Think St John Vienney, Cur if Ares from 1818 until his death in 1857.
When I was a child in a small Catholic town, we had the same priest for around a dozen years. He knew everyone. I remember him visiting our house, I remember serving for him, he would come to our field house and give our football team a talk before or after the game. He was a great pastor. Now, people in that same town still talk about him. He eventually left due to health, but came back to be buried.
I understand this is completely opposed to conventional thought, but it is my thinking on the matter.
When I was in Museums, we were cautioned, “You only want to stay in one place for about five years at a time. That’s about how long it takes to come in, make positive change, and make your contribution to the museum/community. If you stay longer— 6, 10, 20 years— you cause stagnation. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. You’ll bring your strengths to the situation— but you’ll also bring your weaknesses. While you’ll make positive change in some areas, other areas will get neglected. You need to be fair to your museum, and allow them to bring in a successor who will be able to take care of the things that were your weaknesses, and allow the museum to thrive, rather than stagnate.”
I think there may be a lot of overlap with churches. A priest can be very scholarly and holy… but his parishioners might need a competent administrator. Or a priest can be good with finances… but not connect with his parishioners. And so on.
I was very fortunate— I had a priest who spent about 20+ years at our poor, rural parish. (I wasn’t there for all of them-- he was already an Institution when I arrived.) We only lost him when he had to retire and relocate due to health issues. We loved him to pieces… but he spent money in a very specific way, on very specific things, and there was a lot of delayed maintenance for his successor to take on.
His successor only stayed with us for a year. He was good… but it was certainly change. Priest A had the sort of classical education that your British Commonwealth subjects would get, back in the day, and always sounded very distinguished. Priest B had been a former policeman, but was a late vocation. English wasn’t his first language, so when he spoke, he always. Put the pauses in the wrong spots, and. That was hard to listen to after Priest A’s smooth sophistication. Priest A was a good musician, and could sing and play piano, so the congregation wasn’t so participatory. We all had our little niches and ruts. Priest B tried to get us to sing above a whisper. Priest B’s native tongue was the language that 95% of our parishioners speak, so they certainly enjoyed his ability to offer the sacraments bilingually.
After Priest B was reassigned elsewhere, Priest C came in. He, too, was from a Commonwealth country— but no smooth accents! Listening is an effort! He’s very humble, though, and never talks about himself, even though Priest B would bring up anecdotes about his upbringing in every single homily. If you hadn’t been paying attention to a throwaway comment in the middle of a homily about forgiveness, you would never have known that Priest C had been shot in the head in his home country for being a priest… and he had to forgive his attacker. And that was how he had ended up in the US-- his bishop had sent him here for his own safety. Priest C is a terrific person, but he’s a bit brusque— his culture says what it means, without burying it in polite demurrings! (“We were thinking about having a barbecue dinner to welcome you.” “I don’t eat like to eat meat.” “…” [the welcome dinner never materialized].) But he’s also been very methodically cleaning up what was neglected during his predecessors’ tenures-- and we now sing much more boldly than we did five years ago, and are a much more active congregation in general.
We’ve had Priest C for two years. The bishop already asked him if he wanted to move on after the first year, and he said he was happy here. So I’m sure the bishop will keep asking him every year, and he’ll be content to stay, as long as he feels like he’s making a difference. When he feels like he’s done all that he can for us, though, I can definitely understand wanting to step aside and go make a difference for another group of people, and bringing in someone who can take care of the things that just weren’t his forte, whatever they may be.
My parish is run by an order of Oratorian priests. Their order is unique in that they stay at their parish their whole priesthood. We currently have five priests and one novice. I love that the priests are greatly committed to this community. We now have a sister church that they serve and they do a lot of outreach in the community and beyond. I completed RCIA and the sacraments in this church and would love to marry here. The thought of going to a church that did not have the same priests to grow with does not seem appealing. I find comfort in knowing that relationships have formed. Humans crave connection and comfort. I don’t think relationship with Jesus is competing with a long term pastoral relationship. I can see how priests can become idols, but honestly I think a good priest ensures Jesus is the focus, even if they themselves are charming.