Thursday, July 09, 2009

Why your priest may find it hard to move.

I'm not moving this year. I'm going to be in Ames for at least one more year, maybe longer. But, I was thinking about something this morning.

Most priests are introverts. This doesn't mean that they are loners, although some are. It just means we tend to need time by ourselves. Most priests are very social in large groups but it's not something they look forward to doing. Being an introvert means that I want to form strong friendships with a small number of people and tend to get drained by multiple "professional" relationships that aren't very deep. I think this is why most priests (myself included) hate staff meetings. The relationships formed in staff meetings are necessarily shallow. The main concern is to make sure one person isn't getting into the space of another person.

The real challenge of ministry, however, is realizing that you will form deep relationships in parishes and then have to leave those relationships behind as you enter a new parish. There are some priests who make sure they don't form friendships with parishioners in order to make sure that they never have to say goodbye. To be honest, there's something to be said for that attitude. I know that, in my short time as a priest, I've been accused of "taking sides" in a disagreement between two people because I was closer to one of the parties than another. I came into priesthood thinking that I would keep a distance between me and my parishioners and have consistently failed miserably in this endeavor. It's too hard for me to minister to a group of people and not get to know them. The relationships I see in the gospels and in the letters of Paul point to me to the need to be "in relationship" with people.

I don't think I'm the only priest who has ever made friends with parishioners. I think most priests do. And, if they're like me, they need them to be effective preachers and teachers. We learn what people are struggling with from the people we interact with the most. This next Tuesday, my current pastor will move to a new assignment. He's been here for 16 years and has many good friendships here. His replacement was here and left. When he was here, he had my job of working mostly with college students. Please pray for these men as they have to say goodbye to old friends and start the process of making new ones.

1 comment:

Kendra said...

It's going to be hard to lose Fr. Ev (that's at the forefront of my mind as it's the last thing you mentioned)! But as I know that's already been established (and I will certainly keep both him and our new pastor--I don't know how to spell his name--in our prayers!), but I wanted to mention how much I appreciate you talking about being introverted and what that experience is like for you as priest. I think sometimes we parishioners (at least myself) sometimes think of priests as above "normal" humanity without the ability to get angry or annoyed or even just exhausted like others. While I am a pretty even mix of both introvert and extrovert, I can very much appreciate the importance of close friendships and the exhaustion that comes with maintaining lots of surface contacts to get things accomplished. Thanks for posting!