What do Priests Do?
Weddings, Parties, (Masses), Anything!
One of the great things about being a priest is the variety of things that can happen in one day.
Priests Preside at Eucharist, Celebrate the Sacraments of Penance (Reconciliation), Matrimony (weddings), Baptism, Anoint the sick and are the ordinary ministers of communion (at mass or on visitation to those who are in ill health). Priests perform funeral rites too. They are often called upon to perform special blessings at important life events, which can be anything from Blessing houses, People, Objects for use in devotion or by the community, Couples on their wedding anniversaries etc.
Priests often work with and are assisted in some areas of their ministry by many lay people who visit the sick, bringing them communion, and who work in many groups and are important in the smooth running of parish life. Deacons (who can Baptise and do weddings and Funerals and take communion to the sick) and priests, therefore, need to be a "team-players" who work well with groups and cooperate with people.
Priests need to walk a middle-line. They must avoid two extremes. Priests must never downplay or apologise for their role so that it seems as if their role could just as easily be done by anyone else in the community. (To do this would mean watering down the Roman Catholic understanding that the role of ordained priesthood is an essential aspect of the Church’s structure). However, the other extreme is just as destructive; being defensive and over-inflated, or trying to distance one’s role from others as if a priest gets his sense of puspose and value from being "different from others" or holier-than-thou (as if he is better than the rest). The lay vocation and the priestly vocation are equally valuable paths to holiness, and both are valuable and necessary. To diminish or blur either would be unproductive.
Priests are charged with overseeing to the spiritual and pastoral welfare of people in a particular area. Thus, they find themselves representing the parish and their church at public functions and celebrations and giving moral support and encouragement to the different groups that operate in the parish. Often, priests are found working with schools and Saint Vincent de Paul groups, care and concern, state school religious instruction and so on. Anything significant that is occurring in the life of the community or the lives of individuals may call for the presence of a priest as a public sign of the presence and relevance of Christ’s message.
Often priests are also in charge of the physical welfare and financial well being of a parish (they are often in charge of administering the parish or area of their work as a form of trustee on behalf of the Archdiocese). They often do this administrative work with the help of financial assistance and expertise from others where needed.
A week in the life of a priest will likely involve Prayer, Religious services of all kinds, Parties, Meetings, Dinners, Study, Graduations and special events, Visitation to the sick, Meetings for Marriage and Baptism preparation, administration, space, relaxation, reading, School visits, Teaching, funerals, blessings and so on.
Some priests are called by the Archbishop to work in special areas of interest that are deemed important. We have priests who are full-time or part-time chaplains or have special ministry to Hospitals, Colleges and Universities, Schools, Seminaries, Vocations Promotion, Priestly Support, Multicultural Communities, Psychiatric Care, Matrimonial Tribunal, and so many more.
Any talents or special skills that a person has, it is very likely that it could be put to use in some way in the general work of a priest. As well, one never quite knows what the week will turn out to be.
Requests for funeral services come in anything between four days to one day in advance. This may mean rescheduling and also scheduling the important time of meeting the family who are experiencing bereavement and talking with them, offering a listening ear and assisting them in choosing options of readings and music and so on for the ceremony.
It may be helpful to give you a sample of what could happen in a "typical" week (in fact there is no such thing) to give you an idea of the variety. The next week, of course, may look nothing like it. Because we can have meetings or calls anywhere from early morning to late in the evening, there may sometimes be a "split-shift" with busy time in the morning and evening but with quiet time in the middle of the day. Some days are a rush from one thing to the next; others can be quiet and spaced out. It becomes an art for time management.
(I find it helpful to treat the working week as if it begins on a Monday, since by the nature of our work the Saturday and Sunday Mass schedule means that these are really part of the same run of work)
The following schedule does not include all meetings and administrative chores. In-between the things below, we may need to write letters or phone or meet with people or speak with various individuals and groups re different issues.
- Write an article for the local newspaper. We take it in turns with other churches to write an article on faith and life. Try to be creative and informative, thinking of catchy and relevant topics. I consider that we need to put every bit of creativity and energy we have into communicating the message and relevance of the gospel. We need to really be truly "fishers of people" (Matthew 4:18) (putting time and creativity into how to catch the imagination of people and help them make connections with their daily life). To this end, everything we do to communicate our message must be truthful, but we must also be people who are as resourceful, creative and astute as we can possibly be (Luke 16:8). We are also encouraged to be as "cunning as snakes but as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)
- 8am. Meet a family re Baptism preparation
We are expected to take annual leave of approximately four weeks. We are also expected to put aside a week for a retreat.
We are often encouraged to keep looking at our work and daily schedule to ensure there is a good balance of action, prayer, reflection, rest, social interaction and food. It is a constant challenge to ensure our work on administration does not overshadow our pastoral contact with people.