Monday, August 5, 2019

HELLOS, GOODBYES, COMINGS AND GOINGS IN RECTORY LIFE: HOW IS AN AGING PRIEST TO COPE?










As I get older, I find that I am getting a bit more needy and don't like a lot of change in my rectory life. I should restate that. Changes in the my rectory life cause me anxiety and dread, especially if I enjoy those who live with me. The anxiety is that the new person might not be like the one who left, although sometimes they are better, the same or different.

Since the middle of May I have experienced change after change in my rectory. Fr. Drew Larkin, my very first parochial Vicar who arrived in July of 2018 left for canon law studies at Catholic University. I dreaded his leaving not only because I enjoyed living with him but because he was a very good parochial vicar although part time. I knew last summer when he was assigned that he would only be with me for about 10 months.

I had no idea who would be assigned as a new parochial vicar not even into June. But when I heard, I was told it wouldn't be until August that he would arrive, a Nigerian priest newly ordained for our diocese who studied in south Florida. Anxiety galore in this transition for me too as I had never really spoken to him as a seminarian other than to say hello.

Then I had two seminarians for a good part of the summer, a convert of mine from Macon, Deacon Nate Swann. He left the middle of July for Spanish studies.

Then I had Seminarian Will Cook, a former Marine Captain, current Navy Reserve Officer studying for our diocese and eventually allowed to do active duty Navy Chaplaincy. I have grown to admire, respect and enjoy him in the parish and in the rectory. His military background brings me back to my days growing up in an Army family as my dad was career army. Will is our type of people! His departure has caused me anxiety because I loved living with him and found a military security with him there. He has a great heart too and a reassuring personality.

I think too, that having been an army family when I was a child, I lost many very good friends to army moves, my first in East Point, Georgia when my best friend, we were both five years old, moved away. I didn't understand that when I said good bye to him I'd never see him again. My mother wondered why I wasn't sad as we waved goodbye to them. She said you won't see him again and well, that's when I realized it was over and my mom saw me cry. Best friends throughout elementary school moved away and yes, I never saw them again.

So how is an aging priest to cope with the revolving door that is rectory life especially when he returns to his childhood issues?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

Oh Fr. McD! :-) You are getting sentimental in your...later years.

It's very endearing.

God bless.
Bee

John Nolan said...

Why is the African priest presiding over a buffet lunch in Mass vestments?

TJM said...

John Nolan,

It is just another option found in the Novus Ordo - illustrating in terms the people can understand what a sacred meal looks like!

Anonymous said...

Rupert Gethin, professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol writes:

"As long as there is attachment to things that are
unstable, unreliable, changing and impermanent,
there will be suffering –
when they change, when they cease to be
what we want them to be.
(...)
If craving is the cause of suffering, then the cessation
of suffering will surely follow from 'the complete
fading away and ceasing of that very craving':
its abandoning, relinquishing, releasing, letting go."

Echoing the truth of impermanence, St Teresa of Avila offers us:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

And From Charles de Foucauld:

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.


Anonymous said...

Well, maybe he was just "checking out the scene" before Mass, what he had to look forward to afterward. I would probably just call him the associate pastor as the average person in the pew could not define what a "parochial vicar" is, anymore than what a "suffragan bishop" is in the Episcopal Church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

His reception was in our social hall and I asked him to go immediately so he wouldn’t get trapped at the Church. He also offered First blessings at the social hall with the indulgence. He was ordained July 8. Cut him and me some slavk

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father:

With few exceptions, I have had seminarians employed for summer work in every parish I've served. Every year it's different. In one parish, we were able to have three seminarians, which made things especially fun. In my current parish, we will have one or two, but if a second one, it's only for part of the summer. If the seminarian that year isn't particularly outgoing or talkative, it can be a little awkward. Every year, I tell the seminarian -- at the beginning of the summer -- to organize a party for his fellow seminarians. Some seminarians take to that task with vigor, others not so much.

One thing I find in recent years is that I'm getting more set in my ways; I suppose having seminarians is good to counter this?

rcg said...

I hope you and the new priest get along well and he listens to you and he energized you.

Marc said...

It is good for priests to live together and have some life in common. There is a danger of having a priest living on his own: both to himself and to the people under his charge. We now have 5 priests in residence at our priory.

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald said..."Cut him and me some slavk."

Slavk? What's that? An Eastern European cake? A type of Slovakian dessert?

Oh, I see it. In the photo, it's on the table next to the cookie platter. Slavk. Of course. I should've know.

I prefer slovk to slavk. But hey.

By the way, slovk is what you get when a slice of slavk falls onto the table. The slavk picks up all the cookie and cake crumbs that are on the table. It tastes great. Slovk, that is. Not the table. Although I sure with all those delicious cakes and cookies on it, the table also tastes great.

:-)

Plavx.

Sorry...

Pax.

Mark Thomas

James Ignatius McAuley said...

Father,

Glory to Jesus Christ on this the day of His most holy transfiguration!

Respectfully, I do not think John Nolan meant anything untoward in regards to father showing up at the reception, still fully vested.

And, Mark Thomas brought peace by making a fun in a good natured way of your spelling error.

God bless all.

Mark Thomas said...

James Ignatius McAuley said..."And, Mark Thomas brought peace by making a fun in a good natured way of your spelling error."

Speaking of spelling errors...

When I joked with Father about Slavk," I just noticed that I had written:

"Slavk. Of course. I should've know."

I should've...know.

It is nbelievable that I made such a mistake. Absolutely ncredible.

Pax.

Mark Thomas

TJM said...

I am not certain of this, but I suspect that priests who live alone are more susceptible to temptation than those who live with fellow priests or seminarians. Man is a social animal and needs companionship. I recall fondly my parish priests growing up. There was generally an older priest, who probably should have retired, an older priest who served as the pastor, and then two younger curates. I remember dining with them at the rectory because I was heavily involved in the music program and thinking they are like a family. They certainly seemed to enjoy each others company. The elder priest was Italian and made his mother's wonderful spaghetti recipe.

John Nolan said...

Interesting how terminology varies, even in the English-speaking world. We have parish priests, not pastors (the latter term has Protestant connotations). There is no such title as 'parochial vicar'; the PP is assisted by a curate, although nowadays a PP is usually on his own. Anglicans have suffragan bishops, we have auxiliary bishops. A bishop is 'His Lordship', not 'His Excellency' (the latter title is used for Ambassadors to the Court of St James). He does not have a 'chancery', which in any case would be 'chancellery', Chancery being a division of the High Court.

Archbishops who are not Cardinals are sometimes referred to as 'His Grace', although properly speaking Catholic prelates should not use this title.

Regarding TJM's point, in the late 1960s our PP was suddenly moved to an out of the way and much smaller parish, where the church had a leaking roof and there was no curate. His isolation resulted in his taking to the bottle. Catholic priests must envy their Anglican brethren who have job security and can't be moved about from pillar to post on the arbitrary whim of their bishop.

My question concerning the wearing of Mass vestments outside of Mass was not intended as a criticism of any individual, rather a critique of a practice that has become prevalent over the last few decades. When I see, at the end of Mass, the servers return to the sacristy while the celebrant rushes to the door to 'meet and greet' the emerging congregation, I can't help feeling that it's not pukka.

Showing a greater reverence for the Holy Sacrifice includes what happens before and after. The laity can make their thanksgiving during the people's Communion - I like to go to a side chapel, light a candle and say both formal and informal prayers. The priest has even more reason for thanksgiving, but has to make his after Mass has concluded.

There should also be no chatter before Mass, either in the sacristy or among the assembly, and priests need to insist on this - they are there to set an example.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

In my parish, the young priest heads back to the sacristy, removes his vestments, and returns outdoors in his, drum roll please, in his Cassock! I suspect many priests abhor the cassock, which may in some cases be the genesis of this practice of remaining fully vested. In the US, sometimes a curate is referred to as the assistant pastor! I am not certain of the canonical implications of using this term. I prefer curate myself

Anonymous said...

I agree with John (on pastor)---sounds too Baptist! If the "pastor" of a Catholic parish lives in the rectory, then maybe we should call him the "rector".

With regard to the pastor "meeting and greeting" at the door, I notice in the Catholic church there is a rush to the doors when we sing just enough stanzas to get the procession down the aisle. I have noticed in Episcopal services, if there are 6 stanzas to be sun, then all 6 are sung, but the procession may head down the asile after the third and that allows enough time for the celebrant to remove his chasuble as he greets those leaving. Furthermore, after the final stanza in an Episcopal Eucharist, there might be a brief period of silence and then the dismissal and folks stay in their pews breifly before heading out the door...

Marc said...

John, are bishops withing their jurisdiction called something different from bishops not in their jurisdiction? I was listening to something where an Englishman was addressing sedevacantist bishop Daniel Dolan, and he was calling the bishop "his Lordship," but there was some discussion that I didn't understand about some impropriety about that moniker, strictly speaking.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

We use the term "suffragan" in the US to refer to sees within an ecclesiastical province. Our Diocese of Savannah is within the metropolitan province of Atlanta; hence, Savannah is a suffragan see. Our bishop is also referred to as a suffragan bishop of the province.

The presumption of law is that a pastor, once appointed, is not to be moved without serious cause. Canon 1748 says, “If the good of souls or the necessity or advantage of the Church demands that a pastor be transferred from a parish which he is governing usefully to another parish or another office, the bishop is to propose the transfer to him in writing and persuade him to consent to it out of love of God and souls.” Can the pastor refuse? He can. Can the bishop insist? He can. What happens next...? It varies.

Some conferences of bishops have established term limits for pastors, commonly 6 years with a possible renewal for another 6. The US Bishops Conference has not, to my knowledge, made this binding. We have discussed the possibility in our diocese, but the reality is that many pastors are asked to move after serving fewer than 12 years, some sooner. We have a limited number of priests, and moving one pastor sets up a domino effect. One moves, so another must take his place, and another, and another... I have served as pastor in four parishes: 13 years in one, 16 months in another, 5 years in the next, and, now, 3 years in my present assignment.

Anonymous said...

Our pastor in 30327 has served what probably is a record for our Archdiocese---32 years as pastor! But approaching 76, he says he looks to retirement in the not too distant future! I don't think he is interested in matching the service of Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist of Atlanta (which is technically not within the Atlanta city limits anymore, but that is another story)---Dr. Stanley has been pastor there for some 50 years, and still going at it at 80-something.

I agree a national or Vatican standard on pastorates would be unwise given the varying sizes, geography and clergy from diocese to diocese. Better for each bishop to handle that on his own. I think you need 6 years to get to know the parish well and maybe 12 if you are to undergo major construction at a parish---new sanctuary, social center and the like. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, favored rotation of clergy and unlike most other Protestants, Methodists still practice that today---like with our local Archdiocese, June is the month Methodists often find out about their transfers.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh makes a valid point when he refers to non-metropolitan bishops as suffragans. I suspect the term is not much used over here in order to avoid confusion with Anglican suffragan bishops who are not diocesan ordinaries but who perform a similar function to our auxiliary bishops. Unlike ours, they assume a territorial title corresponding to their area of pastoral responsibility. Catholic auxiliary and coadjutor bishops have a titular see, usually 'in partibus infidelium'.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John, my seminary classmate, the Most Rev'd James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, was titular bishop of Cissa during his time as auxiliary bishop of Denver, Colorado. (Cissa: Location: pr. Istria, m. Aquileia, Croatia, now known as the city of Novalja.)

He is one of only two in our class who was made a monsignor. Now that he has been bishop for 11 years, we joke that we have but one surviving monsignor in our class, the current rector of the cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut.