Who Really Wins Now?

My fellow parishioners are finally getting just what they want — they’ve succeeded in running the new priest of out town — and I’m ashamed.

You’ll remember I posted about this situation before, and sadly, it’s gone from Bad to Worse.

In case you don’t remember (or don’t want to read two posts today!), I’ll summarize: Our parish had a gregarious priest most people liked. A lot. Last year, our bishop swapped priests around the diocese in an effort to remind everybody (or so I’m guessing) that priests are temporary, while God is eternal.

It wasn’t a popular move locally. In fact, people were so disappointed unhappy furious with the new guy that many stopped attending entirely, cut way back on their monetary contributions, switched membership to another parish, and held dozens of meetings to complain, malign, and try to persuade the bishop it wasn’t going to fly.

Not that the new priest was a bad man. He was, from what I could tell, a very holy man, a prayerful man. A man who might be better suited for monastic life than service as a parish priest.

His sermons were thought-provoking, his Masses reverent. But I suspect he looked on his one-year stint here as pure Hell. Any change he tried to make was criticized and rejected; and his ears must have been ringing constantly from the gossip taking place behind his back.

Didn’t Jesus command us to love our neighbors? To welcome strangers in our midst? And didn’t James (Ch. 3, vs. 5-10) remind us of the evils of the tongue?

So the bishop acquiesced. A new priest — and the revered pastor of a nearby church — will together take over the reins, effective immediately.

Who wins from this deal?

1) The priestly duo, who will share duties among three parishes.

2) The parishioners, who get their way at last.

3) The bishop, who becomes a good guy in the people’s eyes.

4) People like me, who hope the dissension is finally over.

Something tells me it’s setting a bad precedent for the bishop to let the people “win” this easily. What if they don’t like the next guy? What if some other parish in the diocese doesn’t like its priest? When do we stop the tail from wagging the dog?

But you know, I still think the biggest winner of all is the priest who gets to leave. Life is hard enough without having to endure hostility from one’s family, don’t you think?

29 thoughts on “Who Really Wins Now?

  1. “Something tells me it’s setting a bad precedent for the bishop to let the people “win” this easily. What if they don’t like the next guy? What if some other parish in the diocese doesn’t like its priest? When do we stop the tail from wagging the dog?”

    You’re absolutely right, Debbie. And you’re also right about it being the best for the priest who gets to leave because he’s probably relieved to move on to a different parish.

    You know, this post reminds me of how much people don’t like change. And not only when it comes to this specific topic, but change in general. One of the most frustrating things I find about living in Philadelphia is the strong resistance to any kind of change. The consciousness here is extremely conservative and limited to what they’re comfortable with. Therefore, anytime a change is made, people get so bent out of shape. And it’s sad because without change, you can’t grow.

    Have a super Sunday, my friend!

    • Ron, you’re so right in saying people don’t like change. And it seems that some are more resistant to it than others. This is a conservative parish — lots of older folks, lots of people whose families have been here forever. I’m afraid they weren’t going to accept anybody at that time because they were hoping, along with the charismatic priest who was moved, that he’d be here until his retirement. Guess they didn’t think past that point, ha!

      “Without change, you can’t grow.” Ah, those are very true words, my friend. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts — happy rest-of-your-weekend, too!!

  2. A long time ago!! I wanted to have Cole’s baptismal at home. As a card carrying Catholic I contacted the Church and made several frustrating attempts to have my request fulfilled. They did baptisms at the church unless I would provide a letter stating that I had a “key” elderly family member that due to a handicap would be unable to attend a Church Baptism….It seemed wrong to lie. However, the turning point came, when an older priest, with a sense of humor, looked at me and said, I’m sorry Katybeth we just aren’t Burger King –we don’t do it your way,….I started to laugh and I got it. I didn’t have the baptism at the church (went a different route) but I liked that priest for his humor and clarity. I’ve often admired the fact that the Catholic Church does not waffle. I don’t agree lots of time but at least I know where they stand. My opinion is the Bishop should have been very clear in his support of the new priest. His clear and unwavering support would have sent a clear message to the congregation. In my opinion, selling out for money and attendance is always a long term bad decision. Let the Priests change out in God’s time ,not the congregations (I just made that up—but it’s not bad, right?)

    • Your priest said basically the same thing one of our older priests did when my dad (a convert) questioned how come something or other wasn’t done in some other way. He replied to the effect that the Catholic Church isn’t a democracy. We in this country get so used to having options, voting, making our opinions known; the church, though, is centuries old and isn’t always run according to our wishes.

      I’m sorry you weren’t able to baptize Cole at home. Frankly, I don’t know why not. It seems as long as it wasn’t against church policy and it was something that would see a new member join the ranks, it wouldn’t offend me. I mean, they baptize babies in the hospital, don’t they? I don’t understand everything, but I’m glad you still like and respect the priest in spite of it.

      Yep, what you made up works for me!! Well said!

  3. The first thing I thought of when I saw the title…was the Patriots! How bad is that?

    Anyway, I agree completely with you, as always! And I feel bad for the bloke. At the same time, though, I do know how (kinda cranky) I’d be if that happened to me. We come to like certain things, I suppose.

    • Me, too, Audrey. After all, there’s plenty of work to be done, and little can be accomplished if we don’t work together. Perhaps that’s why the bishop decided to rectify the situation, so we could heal and get back to peaceful cooperation. The way things were going, we were heading for the poorhouse!!

  4. As long as there are winners and losers, there will be no healing or growth. It sounds like strengths and weaknesses have been revealed, which is a pretty good place to start the healing and the growth. Wishing both of those for everyone involved. 🙂

    • Those are great wishes for any time of year, Hipster, but maybe especially for the Easter season — thank you! I’m trying hard to look on the bright side (a new beginning for all involved and so forth), but it bothers me that it had to come at such a high price. I suspect it’s going to take some time for the bad taste to go away!

  5. The office of a bishop is an overseer. It require wisdom that God gives. God is not confused so when a confusing situation occurs we know where that is coming from. satan knows how to wreck a church and cause trouble. All you can do is pray for peace. It’s a shame because the unsaved are watching all this. We need to be reaching souls…hurting people.

    Our world is turning upside down and it’s no time for anyone’s church to be going through this. Your Pope would be upset because He is a man of peace. Let’s hope and pray that this will be a new start for your church and the people of God. May the days ahead be filled with a renewed spirit to do God’s will. In Jesus name …amen.

  6. It’s interesting to learn about the different ways of ordering life in the church. Among Lutherans, it’s the congregation who interviews candidates and issues the call to a pastor. They work in conjunction with the Bishop, who makes recommendations, but the congregation has the final say. Once a pastor’s been called, it’s up to he or she and the congregation to begin building a new, working relationship.

    That’s not to say there can’t be trouble — there surely can be. Every congregation has people who weren’t happy with the choice, don’t like the new person, wish things were the way they used to be, and so on. Still, when a change comes and a pastor leaves for one reason or another, the leaving isn’t dictated from above, either.

    I’ll bet you one thing: that your “interim” priest wasn’t any more suprised about the resistance and rejection than the Bishop was. It’s been very, very common in congretations I’ve known for a pastor to be called for a specified two or three year term after a popular pastor leaves. It’s a fact of life: no one will be as good as the former pastor, so relieve them of the need to try from the beginning.

    • On the contrary, Linda. The “interim” priest, I fear, was blindsided by it. Apparently, his former parish had accepted him just fine and he had no reason to expect animosity from my congregation. Must have been awful for him!

      The blessing here is that he didn’t have to put up with us for long — a year, give or take. I suppose he must have wondered how long he’d have to suffer us, so he’s probably extremely grateful to be moving on again. As to his next assignment, I don’t know much about it, but I understand he won’t be responsible for a parish. That’s probably a good thing because I’m sure that, being human and all, he must have had trepidations over that!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. In some ways, getting a vote might make things easier, but perhaps we Catholics are called to (resigned!) acceptance!

  7. What an awful situation, Debbie. I feel bad for the priest who was chased out of town. It wasn’t his fault that he had to come in when everyone was disgruntled about the decision. Hopefully, he will be welcomed with open arms in his next congregation. Hopefully, all’s well that ends well.

    • I felt sorry for him, too, Monica. Talk about one vs. the masses!! It would only be human to dig one’s heels in and refuse to go the extra mile in such a case, huh?

      Anyway, now that he’s gone, perhaps the healing can begin. Perhaps those who left will return, those who quit donating will start giving again, and the congregational squabbles (for some people wanted to give him a chance while others were adamant against it) can be smoothed over!

  8. It would be difficult to step in when the last priest was so well liked… and being criticized wouldn’t make you want to stay in the new position. I like to give people a chance to prove themselves before I make a decision rather than being hasty… but when people get in groups sometimes it’s easy to label someone as ‘I don’t like him/her” etc. Interesting. I just want my friend Debbie to be happy ❤

    • Aw, gee, bless your heart, Christy! I’m okay, actually. I, too, am the type who would have preferred giving the new guy a chance, and I really didn’t like all the backbiting and dissension. I’m hoping the congregation will accept this change and start down the road of healing — what better time than Easter to do just that, huh?!

  9. Debbie, I could never really understand why churches do this when it so important to build a sense of community. Do you know why this is the regular policy?

    • No, not for certain, Pat. I think it’s to drive home the idea that a priest might be temporary but God is eternal. We humans long for that sense of community, especially in institutions like church; when the “leader” is shifted away, we have to build community with someone new (almost like moving ourselves). It’s challenging, but as you know, the best things in life always are. Happy Easter to you and yours!

  10. This is SO sad! Back when we were still attending our last church, we had a somewhat similar situation. We had a priest who was a dynamic! He was thought provoking, entertaining, mesmerizing … beloved. Due to his own personal needs, he left the parish and active ministry altogether. When the new guy came along, he couldn’t compete. No one tried to drive him away, but membership dropped and all the energy of the church community seemed to fizzle away. Looking back, I feel really bad for the priest (like yours) who had to try to fill such big shoes. Just last week, I was listening to a sermon online and part of the message was that our churches – their leaders and parishioners – don’t hold the responsibility of keeping us happy and making us feel like we’re in the right place. It’s nice if that does happen, but going to church, for each of us individually, should be about going to give glory to our Father. The other people in church are simply, like us, imperfect people. How we perceive them should not get in the way of our worship .

    I’m sorry your parish is going through this turmoil, Debbie and I hope that somehow, the community can smooth things out and get back on track toward the real reason for going to church.

    • Terri, I love this reply! And I see your online sermon as spot on! We are imperfect people, trying our hardest to follow God the best way we know how. The church is tasked with helping us on that road. We can’t depend on feelings — after all, how many times do we not like ourselves very much (or our families, for that matter?!)

      I’ve already seen a BIG difference, now that two priests are sharing responsibility for the parish. Holy Week services have been packed. It will be interesting to see whether the collections start increasing as well!

      Happy Easter to you and yours!

    • Thanks, Dawn. Yes, living under this much stress can’t be good for anybody. I’m especially glad for our little priest who was run off — you could just see the sadness in his eyes — and I know any place must be better than here for him. Hope you and yours have a lovely Easter!

  11. This is sad. We shouldn’t be so attached to the deliverer of God’s word. I think it takes away from God’s message. And, I’m pretty sure God wouldn’t be pleased with how the parishioners acted here. I’m glad you kept your head about you and recognize the negative effects of this.

    • Janna, I don’t think God would be pleased, either — especially at this time of year! And you’re right, perhaps that’s why we move our priests around so much, so parishioners won’t get too attached to them. Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

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