success stories

Posted May 21, 2003

Seven Top Recommendations Made by Priests to Insure the Future Health and Effectiveness of the Priesthood

This is the FIFTH of the seven recommendations that will be posted daily on our website. The recommendations come from the study: Evolving Visions of the Priesthood: Changes from Vatican II to the Turn of the New Century by Dr. Dean R. Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger. For further information please e-mail Dr. Dean Hoge at hoge@cua.edu.

Recommendation 5: Provide clear guidelines for healthy limit-setting by priests

Concerning the problem of overwork among priests, the recommendations given to us fell into two areas: the need for more hierarchical support and the need to expand parish staff. First of all, diocesan leadership needs to provide guidance and support for healthy limit-setting. A 49-year-old priest sees the need for structural change:

"They give us all these recommendations to balance your life, rest, and whatever else, but that's lip service. There's got to be a systemic, structural change, and I think only the bishops can initiate the discussion to look at what those changes need to be, whether it's in promoting laity or cutting back on duties or promoting vocations. They've got to deal with that openly. That would be the key thing that I would say about overwork. Too many priests are too dedicated, and they're going to overwork no matter what. They just don't have the ability to say no, because they're too willing to give. They see the work and they go do it."

A 40-year-old priest recognizes how difficult it is to take time for himself:

"I think, as priests, we're almost called to be workaholics. You can be made to feel guilty if you don't work 17 hours a day almost. You feel you should be in your office. If you're not, it's not so much that somebody else is looking at you saying, "Why aren't you in our office?" but it's that self-infliction, you know, "Why aren't you? You should be down in your office instead of working in your room or taking that hour for a quiet hour for prayer. You want to do it, and yet people are going to think I'm not working because I'm up here praying and not in the office. Well, really it's nobody's business. But you kind of inflict that on yourself. So I think the recommendation needs to be made that we need to be able to say it's okay to take time. It's okay to take care of yourself. If you want to go exercise, it's okay to take an hour off and get out of the rectory. It's okay to do some things for yourself."

A religious priest, age 40, suggested exploring alternatives:

"Find ways for priests to not be overworked-other alternatives for ministry, maybe being more inclusive of others. I'm kind of torn, because I would like to see women in the priesthood; I'd like to see married folks in the priesthood. But as I work here with young people and help them with discernment, I don't think the problems of the priesthood will be solved if we just allow these other groups to take part in the ministry . . . . But maybe look at other alternatives lay folks, religious, women religious, whatever ti might be to take some of the responsibility away."