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 SIXTH 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 6: Increase financial and moral support for hiring lay staff.

The priests both young and old, recognized the need to delegate to staff and laity, but they also felt a need to clarify expectations and a need for increased financial support.

A 37-year-old priest describes the role that money plays in being able to adjust the workload of priests:

"The problem is that some of the structure is inherent. To change the workload of priests you have to be able to expand lay staff or other staff, and that takes money. So those with money are able to expand lay staff or other staff, and that takes money. It's more of an issue of stewardship. They want to inspire Catholics to give more, to tithe, then they have more money to do more programs with."

A priest in a focus group:

"We don't want bishops or leadership to be Big Daddy and take care of us. But I think we are asking for leadership that encourages us to take responsibility for our own health. I also would say, we need leadership that says, "It's okay to look at alternative forms of staffing, running, and maintaining parochial life." Okay, John here [another priest] said he is going to hire a business manager. He's going to get flak for that from some parishioners or whatever. I think we as a local church are not at a place where we can say to the people, "Let's buck up with thirty thousand dollars a year to hire someone to do what Father used to do." We are still re-imaging what Fathe is going to do in this church with fewer priests."

Another priest in a focus group emphasized the financial difficulties in a poor parish:

"I would say, we need more paid staff for the poor parishes, and the diocese should commit itself to see that. Be the true church across the board, and not just the church of the rich, of those who can afford it. Provide for paid staff for the poorer parishes."

A 64-year-old priest focused on the spiritual role of the priest:

"Figure out how we can govern our parishes, administrate our parishes, in ways that do not depend so highly on the pastors involved in all the administering. We're not plant managers. We're out to plant the word of God, but we don't deny that we live in this very real world. We have to entrust to lay commissions, managers, or however we want to say it, the real fiscal management of the Church."