success stories

Posted February 5, 2003

Vital Dimensions of Priesthood Accented by a Time of Crisis

Bishop Gerald Kicanas
Origins Oct. 3, 2002 Vol. 31: No.17

I believe this is a crisis of growth and renewal, Coadjutor Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz, said in his keynote address Sept. 16 to the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors convention in Boston.

Saying that the current sexual-abuse crisis in the church has been building and developing for over 20 years, Kicanas added, Renewal will follow, but in time.

He reflected on the crisis in the priesthood, the church's resilience and dimensions of diocesan priesthood that are important and which the crisis has made even more salient and relevant.

He expressed hope that the renewal to come will find diocesan priests at home in the midst of their people . . . will lead them to a stronger bond with their bishops and bring them into closer collaboration with all others in ministry.

Kicanas encouraged vocation directors and seminarians to discern whether candidates can enter people's lives in respectful ways, understand their struggles and challenge them to grow in holiness, . . . whether candidates can form bonds of trust with authority figures and whether candidates can work with others.

Kicanas said: Sometimes members of presbyterates are set against one another . . . Some presbyterates are divided ideologically.

The bishop also encouraged vocations directors and seminarians to look for candidates willing to sacrifice, willing to embrace emptiness in order to become filled with the Christ.

Kicanas said that the first step in rebounding from a crisis or a trauma is to look reality squarely in the face. He said that by nature those in the church are optimists, but that optimism is not hope . . .Optimism can distort reality. The church for too long has been hesitant to gather data about sexual misconduct . . .

The facts prove difficult, but . . . we would know clearly the reality we are facing while also dispelling myths.

The growth of renewal he envisions will be achieved to the extent that we cast off . . . characteristics that have crept into priestly ministry, distorting it.

The crisis cut away at the quick. Priesthood is not about power, prestige or privilege. A priestly life is characterized by mission, holiness, sacrifice and commitment.

Excerpts from the text:

the church is in the midst of crisis, not unlike the church at the end of the 10th and into the 11th centuries and again in the 16th century. Those, too, were troubling times when the church seemed decayed, decadent, a failed vision . . .But a reforming spirit gradually pervaded the church in those troubled times. The church rebounded. A new holiness came over the church.

Other data would be helpful in understanding the priesthood of the third millennium. We need to better identify the concerns and problems priests face, the source of the divisions that exist within presbyterates. What is the morale of our priests? How valued do they feel? How well are they integrating their sexuality?

There is no place in the priesthood for those who will reprimand or belittle, insult or look down upon people, treat them as inferior.

While seminary screening and formation are important for a renewed priesthood, ongoing formation for priests is as important if not more critical today. Dioceses need to develop programs that help priests continue to integrate the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral dimensions of their lives.