success stories

Posted February 3, 2003

Effective Priests of the Future

By Bishop John Boissonneau
in Origins: August 1, 2002: Vol.32: NO 10


Effective priests of the future will draw life from the people that they serve, and that in turn will inspire them to serve those people better," Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau of Toronto, Ontario, said in an address June 29 to the Serra International Convention in Toronto.

It is a synergistic relationship, he said, with the priests drawing inspiration from the example that lay people set in their own lives, and they are awed by their role in people's lives at the key moments of birth, marriage, death, sickness and suffering.

The Canadian bishop surveyed elements of today's priesthood that will remain constant for successful future priests as well as changing elements. He said that predicting the face of the priesthood requires understanding of where they come from and what excites or motivates them to pursue and persevere in priestly ministry. Every five years, it has been my experience, there is another and different nuance and emphases arise in the life and ministry of priests.

The successful future priest, said the bishop, will be convinced that being a priest is a significant way to spend his life, will not be afraid of taking risks and will be convinced that the Gospel and the way of the church offer real joy and freedom for our world.

These priests will seek to avoid being isolated and attempt to deal constructively with loneliness, and they will place a premium on being authentic, on being honest, on not just going through the motions.

Discussing elements of priesthood will remain constant, Boissonneau referred to the priest's fundamental ministry, as well as to celibacy and collaboration.

Future priests will continue to be celibate in the Latin rite, he said, and it is important that we understand well the nature of this gift to the church.

He said the most essential thing that celibacy is, is that it is a way of loving life.

Speaking of collaborative ministry of priests and lay men and women is a spirit of partnership . . . Collaboration means that we are all in it together.

Excerpts from talk:

"It is true that the diocesan priest has no vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He makes some promises, that is true, incurs some obligations. But if there is a force which makes him unextravagant, chaste and obedient, it has to be his own maturity, generosity and sense of what the joy demands."

"In the future the successful priests are those who believe that their role in our society is to be countercultural. In a society that has a real focus upon competition, materialism, violence and sexuality, they see their roles as offering an alternative way . . . The temptation for them will be to reject too much of our culture and isolate the church from its traditional role of leavening the culture and being incarnate in all the best aspects of the culture and of the society."

"Priesthood and their personal talents are not for them but for others. They try to live the sense that they are to serve and not to be served. It is also about leading. The image of the servant leaders is strong in their understanding, that is, serving people by calling and empowering them to serve others."