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Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
January 15, 2006
The Parish and the Role of a Pastor

    The past decade has given the American Catholic something to reflect upon with respect to the role of the pastor in the Catholic Church.  The Diocese of Manchester has not been as seriously affected as many parishes in the South or the western dioceses.  We have seen the change of our pastor’s role during the past four to five year, however.  Until that time every parish, and there were many, had a pastor to whom people could go to for almost anything including financial advice.  Pastors attended family parties, wedding receptions, and frequently dined with parishioners.  Pastors were even invited to be speakers at fund raising events.

    All of these things were fine and good.  They was certainly nothing morally wrong with any of it.  However, what went wrong was the fact that people soon began to see this pattern of behavior as the “ordained” role of their pastor.  The pastor, they thought, should be expected to do these things.  This was their work.

    The past few years has seen a dramatic decrease in priestly vocations.  This has had a significant effect of the present role of the pastor.  Priests are now attempting to cover multiple parishes and do multiple duties over and above the parish work.  The laity, on the other hand, has not had the time to absorb the shock of this dramatic decrease.  They are wondering what has happened to their beloved friend, the pastor. “Why can’t we have a priest who cares for us the way they used to?” they ask.  Although many people do understand the situation, there are many who take things too personally and take too much of a sentimental perspective on the subject.

    To get a better perspective of the role of the pastor, let’s look back to the onset of the parish.  The word Parish comes from the Greek work Paroikia which means sojourner or a place of waiting.  The word was in existence during the time of St. Paul.  Paul was one of the very first pastors in the church.  His work was to travel to a town, settle there for a time probably somewhere between six months to two years.  During this time he would preach, baptize new converts, train the deacon  and deaconess to oversee the new parish.  When Paul felt that the new faith community understood its role as Christians, he moved on to form another parish.  No one replaced him, they maintained their community as best they could, living the life they had professed at their Baptism.

    As time went on Paul had begun many such parishes or new Christian communities. If the young parish found themselves in a spiritual dilemma, they would contact Paul and ask for his advice.  He would answer they plea by sending a letter.  We are all familiar with these letters since we read them at our liturgies on the weekend.  We often miss the point of the letter because we only hear small fragments at the time.  If you read the letter or epistle in its entirety however, you would see that the letters are always directed to a very specific teaching or moral problem. This is how Paul pastored the young church. 

    In short, we see that the actual role of the pastor is to shepherd or guide his flock.  He guides them by preaching and teaching the truths of the Christian faith.  He provides sacramental care for his flock and serves their spiritual needs.  Accepting this type of pastor takes a new mentality.  Are we prepared to face this challenge?
                                                                                                                                    Lorette P. Nault