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Priest Camaraderie

From the book: Grace Under Pressure: What Give Life to American Priests


It is not surprising that the friendship and support of other priests is important to these priests. Many of them make it a point of having dinner with priests who are friends. One priest shares a weekend cottage with four other priests. Al, 38, an Eastern pastor makes weekly fishing trips with other priests throughout the spring and summer. "On Thursdays," he said, we'll get six to ten priests who will meet at a restaurant and then go fishing in the afternoon. I don't think that many priests take days off with other priests consistently. Some of us go out and read and walk the mountains, or sit around and tell jokes or swap stories or homilies. But it seems the first two weeks of the spring you get a lot of complaining. It's like breaking the crust. And from then until the end of October, you seldom hear any complaining or griping. It's just that everybody is glad to be out there."

Jack from the Midwest said, "I have always lived in a rectory with other priests. And I don't look forward to the day when I will live alone in a rectory. The relationships have been varies. Some have been satisfying, some have been not so satisfying. But just to live with another priest and to be able to come back from a meeting or frm the hassle of the day an to be able to meet, to talk about that, helps me get rid of it and helps me go on to whatever I've got to do next."

John from the West mentioned three older priests who had an impact on this life early in priesthood: "They would be nurturing me and affirming me in my own way of doing things. And I just felt very fortunate to have good, healthy, effective, excited, older men to be around and be nurtured by." Eric from the South also talked about the good modeling he has had from older priests: "I just admire the strength of their stance and the courage that they have shown over the years. I've tried to have the courage I saw displayed to them, in their willingness to stand firm in the their view of Church and to try to live it out. . . like dealing with racism or even dealing with the administration of the diocese in terms of fairness and theology. And one priest, in particular, has been a model of suffering. Things have not always gone well with this priest in his life, but what a model of generosity he is!"

But if priests value the friendship of other priests, they also react very negatively to priests they see as angry or apathetic. Al from the East said, "I was in a living situation with a fellow priest who was a gardener. He was the pastor and after gardening he would frequently walk back to his room and sit in his room all day. He might have been reading books or watching television or something. But as far as going to hospitals or shut-ins or grammar school or CCD, that was a nonexistent issue in his priesthood. It makes it difficult for others."

Fred, a Western chancery official, said, "I enjoyed a period where I was involved in continuing education with clergy, being able to go to workshops and being around people who are competent. It rubs off. You look around and say, jeez, I am part of this group? I am a peer to this? These are people I would like to be like and that gives me a sense of competency. I dread sitting around with the losers of the diocese. You wonder what gives them energy booooring."

Fred also had a complaint about some priests who leave. "We have missed so much, too," he said, "when our fellow priests have left and have not told us the truth, had not done the real relationship thing of writing us and letting us know why. They don't have to give us all the details. They disappear and it's like the didn't matter then and they don't matter now. And that cheapens our life together."