success stories

Posted March 26, 2003

Priests and Their Ministry: Obstacles and Supports

Bishop Gregory Aymond
Origins: March 13, 2003, Vol.32:NO.39

My brothers, we are not CEOs,” Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin, Texas, said in a Feb 11 address to a convocation of priests serving in the diocese. Aymond said that the priests is preacher and teacher of the word, . . . presider of the sacraments, . . . the shepherd, the one who provides pastoral care. In the parish particularly, the shepherding priest is also the administrator and overseer, said Aymond.

But, he said, administrative things should not take us away from God, the word, the sacraments and being the one who gives pastoral care to those in need . . .If we are to be good stewards of the gifts given to us as priests, the key is to call other people to do the things that they can do. The bishop suggested that sharing responsibilities with deacons, with people in lay ministry, with catechists, with people who are business managers, youth ministers and others should offer encouragement to priests in our struggle to be good priests, as should priest fraternity groups and taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Aymond pointed out six obstacles to accomplishing priestly ministry, and he examined several ways for priests to accomplish their role. For example, prayer is essential for priestly ministry, he said. Also, we accomplish priesthood in consultation and collaboration . . . We can do better ministry if we do not surround ourselves with yes people . . . The Church is counting on collaboration with representatives of the people of God to help our communities better reflect the ministry of Jesus, said Aymond. Cynicism — cloaked in anger and hostility — is an obstacle to priestly ministry, as is competition. Provincialism, lack of trust, loss of a sense of focus and acting like the Lone Ranger also are obstacles. In a concluding section of his address Aymond examined the accountability priests and bishops have to one another precisely as priests. My successes and my failures affect you and your success and your failures affect me, and they affect the church.

Quotable Excerpts:

“The parish must run smoothly, and finances, buildings, insurance, civil and church laws and ministerial complications are important and have to be attended. However, these administrative things should not take us away from God, the word, the sacraments and being the one who gives pastoral care to those in need. They should not be the purpose of our lives, and they should not take up most of our time.”

“Some of our brother priests who recently have been in sexual abuse trouble lived in isolation. They felt no responsibility, no accountability to anything or anyone, and the did wrong. I suspect that no one went to them and said, What is your life about? Why don’t you join with us? If those men felt more accountability maybe they would still be with us.”