Posts tagged: Parish priest

The Hope-filled ‘60’s – Looking Back

By , March 27, 2012 1:32 pm

The 1960’s were an extraordinary time in the United States. They were filled with hope and chaos. Nationally, the Vietnam War raged on and on. Thousands of young Americans were dying and tens of thousands of Vietnamese were suffering the same fate. The draft was on and many young people were making every effort to avoid it because they instinctively knew that the war was so senseless, so wasteful and so unnecessary.

On the Church side of the ledger, things looked differently. Konrad Adenauer was leading a prosperous, peace loving Germany and the agony of the Second World War was beginning to fade, at least slightly. In the Church there was optimism everywhere. John XXIII, that rotund, little parish priest from the Italian alps, sat on the throne of Peter. He was loving and lovable. He looked at the problems in the Church and for the first time in more than 100 years called for a world-wide council of bishops. Change was in the air. Hope was in the air. Optimism was abundant. So there you had that decade. You had war and chaos and conflict, and you had faith, hope and optimism.

As a young priest, I had already been in several very diverse parishes and in the late ‘60’s was serving the national office in Washington, D.C. I had the thrill of witnessing close at hand the remarkable legislative accomplishments of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In the South, the Freedom Riders were beaten and sometimes killed but the War on Poverty with all of its ramifications and the Civil Rights Act, the Voters Rights Act and Open Housing Act were all passed in that same decade. I remember the whole decade very well and I hope that I never forget it. No one should.

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St.Vianney, the Cure of Ars

By , August 4, 2011 5:09 am

TODAY is the feast of St. John Vianney, better known by his title, the Cure of Ars.  He was born in a small village near Lyon, France in 1786, just a few years before the beginning of the French Revolution.  He would die in the village of Ars in 1859.  The vast majority of his life was spent in those two villages and yet his influence reaches out quietly 150 years later across the world, especially to parish priests.

The parish priest is the lynchpin of the Roman Catholic Church.  He is there where life is lived and where work is done.  Many people, when they think about or discuss the Church, tend to talk about who is pope or who is bishop or who might be bishop.  The heart of the matter is that the quality of leadership in the local church outranks everything else in the day-to-day life of parishioners.

Vianney was not a great leader.  He wasn’t asked to come over to the Versailles Palace with the kings after their restoration.  However, he was an awesome source of holiness in a small village that caused people across France and across Europe to find the opportunity to come and be close to him.  While it is good for the Church to have priests who achieve great things in the larger world, the real need for the Church is priests who are holy, priests who live their lives in such a way that the people see in a very dramatic way the mysterious presence of Jesus of Nazareth.

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My Best Job

By , October 13, 2010 3:52 am

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly sixty years and throughout those five decades and more, I have been assigned to a number of different tasks and responsibilities by the Church.  However, the one for which I was specifically trained and one that I enjoyed the most was being a parish priest.  The parishes are the building blocks of the Church’s structure.  While the diocese is more important theologically, the parish is where things get done.

I have always had an idealized picture of parishes in my mind.  There is the church standing in the center of the neighborhood where the people live.  There are other facilities to be used for other things, such as education and social services.  However, the church and its altar is the center of the parish, and that is where on the first day of each week the faithful gather to again place their faith in Jesus Christ, to live out their faith and to live it in company of those who share it with them.  A well-administered parish brings joy into the lives of the faithful, provides never-failing encouragement and unites them in a way that is hard to grasp by someone who does not share that faith.

I visualized churches opening their doors on Sunday morning after Mass and seeing people pour out into the lawns and parking lots having had their minds uplifted, their wills stimulated and were ready to go into the struggles of another week.  Are all parishes that way?  By no means.  For a day or two let’s talk about administrative problems in parishes that occasionally cause frustration and disappointment.  Tomorrow let’s look at how old and inaccurate parish lists can inflict pain in people’s lives.

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