GOOD SHEPHERDS, GOOD LEADERS
We held our twice yearly meeting with the priests today (Wednesday). I mandate little from them beyond their ordination promises but it is necessary from time to time to get together and allow myself and others an opportunity to raise concerns and cautions for ministry in today’s Church. I dare say that it is much more difficult to be a pastor in the Church today than at any previous time in US history. Why you might ask? There are a multitude of factors which make pastoring challenging: safe environment requirements protecting children require constant oversight and monitoring. Bookkeeping and financial accountability have advanced far beyond the old pegboard checkbook system and now payroll is provided by one vendor and other functions either remain with a parish bookkeeper or are farmed out. Past generation pastors and bookkeepers did not have to factor in things such as 401-k programs into payroll accounting and IRS reporting. Management of employees must proceed sadly as if everyone who leaves our employ may sue the diocese, the parish, the pastor. Thus Human Resources attention is required. In sum, we ask a lot of our priests that has little to do with ministerial presence and much to do with administration.
Today we presented a program which is gaining traction in the US called Good Shepherds, Good Leaders which attempts to provide our priests who wish to take it with two years of training in how to be both a good shepherd of the people and a good leader of a congregation. The program is purely optional and no one will be forced to take it but thirty-eight of our priests said “yes” they would be willing to start it next year and another sixteen showed interest but needed more information or specific questions answered. I publicly committed to taking basically the same program which is offered to bishops nationally. The men will probably enjoy a lot more freedom of expression if the “boss” is not around the local program. A three-day program will be held at the Bethany Center four times each of two years and a single day workshop will be offered in some of the months which do not have the three day/night experience. The cost will be born half by the diocese, one quarter by the parish and one quarter by the priest himself. I remember very well when I was a child taking piano lessons I did not work very hard at learning to play the piano. When later in life I started paying myself for the lessons, I took them far more seriously.
The program has been offered in the Archdiocese of Miami and the Dioceses of Venice, Palm Beach (just starting) and Orlando and has been well received by the priest participants. I am happy that so many of our priests chose to commit to it today and ask your prayers for its ultimate success. We have good shepherds now and many are already good leaders, but like with myself, there is always room for improvement.