Ten Ways to Support Your Parish Priest
by Debra Laraway
(Editor's (Peter Fournier) note: The picture above dates back to 1985 - our family friend, Father Bob Papi and 2.5 year old Matthew Fournier. A special relationship right from the beginning.)
If you've been paying attention to this year's (2000) presidential campaign news, you've heard or read some of the opinions of Bob Jones University on Catholics. Those opinions may raise our blood pressure temporarily, but they don't hurt the way the same comments would coming from a friend or neighbor. Priests aren't any different. A particular news article may annoy a priest, but the words and actions of parishioners can hurt.
In his letters, the apostle Paul repeatedly encouraged Christian communities of the time to "let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith." (Galatians 6:10), and "be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ." (Ephesians 4:32) Saint Paul never made any exceptions to his instructions on how Christians should treat each other. His instructions apply to everyone in Christian communities, from a parishioner who only shows up for Mass at Christmas to the pastor.
Most of us are not in a position to do much about media attitudes toward priests, but we can do something about the way our own parish priests are treated. Saint Paul tells us that "If one part suffers, all the parts suffers with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy." (1Corinthians 12:26) These ten suggestions can increase the joy in our parishes.
1. Pray for your parish priests on a regular basis. Encourage others to do the same.
2. Tell your parish priests when you like something they do, or that you found a particular homily helpful.
3. Remember that some things are beyond a parish priest's control or authority. The diocese a parish is located in sets many parish policies. Sometimes decisions are made based on confidential information.
4. If you volunteer to do something, do it faithfully and to the best of your ability. If your work seems unnoticed, it means you are doing such a good job your parish priest no longer has to think about that area; he knows he can count on you.
5. If your parish does not have a parish administrator or financial manager, encourage your parish counsel to hire one if it is possible. A parish with a $40,000 budget has as much paper work as a business with a $400,000 budget. Priests can't visit the sick if they are filling out tax forms.
6. Be kind to the lay people responsible for the day to day business of running your parish. They make it possible for the priests of your parish to be ministers instead of administrators.
7. Remember that everyone needs a change of scenery and routine from time to time. Be gracious when a priest takes time off, whether it's for a retreat, to play golf, or to channel surf. Give him that time gladly.
8. Watch what you say to and about your parish priests in front of your children. They will model your behavior.
9. Eventually, your parish priest will do or say something you disagree with, or say "no" to a request. Before you write a letter or make a phone call, pray for God's guidance and your own understanding of what was said or done, and then wait a few days. If you still feel the need to discuss an issue, be polite. Lay people have a right and obligation to speak up on anything that pertains to the good of the Church, but also an obligation to show respect for their pastors.
10. Remember that your parish priests are human. They are going to make mistakes and say things they shouldn't, just like the rest of us. In 2nd Corinthians Paul says of those who cause grief "you should forgive and encourage him instead, or else the person may be overwhelmed by excessive pain. Therefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him". (2Corinthians 2:7-8)
Prayers for Community Oh, Lord Jesus, bring us together, keep us together - seeing, hearing, aware, sensitive. We need to look at our children and listen to our parents and be sensitive to each other and aware of each other. Teach us to know that it is thy will that we be together. Teach us to know that it is not our mutualities and congenialities that bind us-it is the life of Jesus Christ that binds us-and so we belong together and we must go together. Amen.
God of endurance and encouragement, grant ______ parish the grace to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord ______ parish may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of hope fill ______ parish with all joy and peace in believing, so that ______ parish may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Based on Romans 15:5-6,13.)
Prayers for a Priest God of peace, I ask that you furnish ______ with all that is good, that ______ may do your will. May you carry out in ______ what is pleasing to you through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Based on Hebrews 13:20-21)
Father, I ask that ______ be strengthened with power through your Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in ______'s heart through faith; that ______, rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that ______ may be filled with all the fullness of God. Amen. (Based on Ephesians 3:16-19.)
Grace, mercy, and peace be with ______ from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's son in truth and love. Amen. (Based on 2John3.)
May mercy, peace, and love be ______'s in abundance. Amen. (Based on Jude2.)
Scripture quotations are from the New American Bible, copyright 1986, by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
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