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Parish Models: Priests, Pastors and Rectory

Is the Holy Spirit  calling us to see these days we are living in as an opportunity to reimagine what a parish can be?

Significant retooling is not about the way things were (nostalgia) or keeping people calm and happy (serenity). It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity God is giving us to create a healthy parish. This would be a parish that is healthy for the priests who serve there. It would be a parish that is healthy for the staff and teams that serves alongside the clergy. It would be a parish that is healthy for the people in the pews. Same for the fallen away, and for the unchurched in the area who are waiting to hear the gospel. It would be a parish where people meet the God they never knew growing up. It would be a parish where you meet people whose lives have been transformed by Jesus and are sent out on a mission.

What would that look like? I have been looking around the country for ideas. Below are some ideas currently being discussed around the country. They involve new thinking about priests, pastors, and rectory models.

Imagine three to six priests who serve and live together. They minister under the leadership of a pastor who has the charism of leadership. The other priests will have different – but complementary charisms to the pastor. These men will be freed from the burden of serving as pastor. They can share their charisms and natural talents in a way that most are unable to do now. They can pastorally care for the faithful. They unleash the gospel to the unchurched in ways that best fit their talents and personality.

This community of priests would be a protection from – and remedy for – many of the ills that plague priests today:

  • Loneliness
  • Frustration
  • Discouragement
  • Burnout
  • Various addictions brought on by the above

Priests would provide more access to the sacraments, especially Mass and confession. The sacraments could be available at times most helpful for the lay faithful in the 21st century. Perhaps as many as three to four daily Masses could be available. Two in the morning (for people on night shift). One at noon. One in the evening.

Confession is offered daily by two priests who have the charism of mercy. They would delight in being available as often as possible for the faithful. Eucharistic exposition and benediction could occur every day of the workweek.

Two to three deacons might assist the priests and lay staff in the work of mission and outreach. This would provide an appropriate number of priests and deacons. The sick, homebound, imprisoned, and others who are suffering, would not only regularly be visited. They would see clerics who have charisms of encouragement, healing, mercy, or service. This would ensure that nobody is forgotten or abandoned in their time of need and sickness.

Pastors would have enough resources to move the parish from maintenance to mission. This would involve sufficiency in both personnel and finances.

In order for this to work, we have to reconsider how we think about the parish staff, lay ministers and parishioner engagement. We examine that next week.

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