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Posted March 10, 2010

Affective Priestly Fraternity

Cardinal Roger Mahoney

Origins. Feb. 25, 2010. Vol. 39. Number 37

Excerpt from preface:

“No parish exists or thrives spiritually and pastorally in isolation from all other parishes” and “no priest exists or thrives spiritually and pastorally in isolation from other priests,” Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney of Los Angeles said in a January letter to priests in the archdiocese. He wrote about a “creeping isolation” among priests. He said there are two essential expressions of affective fraternity among priests living in the same residence: prayer together and sharing meals together. “Without those two pillars of priestly fraternity, we tend to drift apart and into a mysterious isolation in the same house,” Cardinal Mahoney said. He said that affective priestly fraternity doesn’t just happen; it must be intentional and must be worked at. The cardinal gave suggestions to priests, pastors/parish administrators, heads of deaneries and regional bishops on how priestly fraternity could be improved. He said that improved fraternity among priests would lead priest to see themselves as “co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, not isolated independent contractors slaving away on our own.” Cardinal Mahoney said that improved priestly fraternity would set a good example for men considering the priesthood.

Excerpts from the letter:

Being available for each other for prayer and for meals is not an option here — it is the living out of our shared priestly ministry in this local church.

There is something about table fellowship among priests which energizes us and gives us new strengths, shared hopes and a broader awareness of the Spirit working in and through each one.

Pastors and parish administrators: You have a first-line responsibility to make certain that there are times during the week when you and the priests living in your parish — both associate pastors and in-residence priests — gather for some form of shared prayer. . .But you, the pastor or parish administrator, must give the leadership here, decide which days will be observed together and help hold one another accountable.

Those priests living alone need to link up with a neighboring parish or parishes to share meals and prayer time during the week.

We also need to include our retired priests residing in our parishes, whether they live in the rectory or privately.

Deans: I am asking our deans to do a reality check with each and every parish in your deanery. Which parishes provide opportunities for prayer and for meals? Which ones do not and why not? And what are those pastors or administrators planning to do about this?

Regional bishops: I am asking you to bring this topic up each month when you meet with your deans and council of priests’ representatives. You need to emphasize the importance of genuine priestly fraternity — not something forced and artificial but something looked forward to happening on a regular basis.