On different occasions I have had the opportunity to address new pastors and Pastoral Administrators from various diocese of New York State. The challenge given was to give them advice in the practical and pastoral areas of parish lead-ership or ‘pastoring’. On these occasions I share some of the experiences I have had with influential people in my life – my family, priests and parish staffs with whom I have worked, and the people I ministered to and with in different assignments over the last 38 years.
After sharing my stories I decided to share our Top 10 Priorities of Pastoring, but after thinking about it, perhaps the title should have been my Top 10 Priorities of a Loving Pastor – after all isn’t love what this is all about? In any case, these are some of the things that keep me personally healthy and keep my ministry to the people fruitful and positive. The first three are prioritized, the rest, for a variety of reasons, may move around.
- Pray every day – for me it’s usually before 6:45 mass or in my prayer area at home.
- Take care of myself – see medical, spiritual and other support systems on a regular basis; exercise regularly; take 2 days off each week; and do not be ashamed of taking vacations.
- Preside and preach – with a “passion for excellence” in all forms of prayer.
- Know the faith community – listen and assure the community that my door, ear and heart are always open to them; accept invitations to dinner; stop by choir practice, committee meetings, etc. just to say “hi.”
- Communicate with the parishioners – in every way possible: a weekly bulletin column, in the Gathering Area before and after every mass, be seen around town, use e-mail and personal notes, keep the bulletin and web site fresh and up to date.
- Respect the staff – by knowing who they are through regular communication and development opportunities. They were hired because they are dedicated and qualified – respect that. Support and encourage them, hold weekly staff meetings with rotating chairperson duties (empowerment), let them know your office is always open to them, and en-courage them to care for themselves.
- Watch mine fields – respect the local traditions and peculiarities of each community.
- Lead with vision – which does not necessarily mean being personally responsible for carrying “it” to reality. Plant the seeds, guide the leaders to the “well,” and watch them flourish.
- Maintain an open ear with a trusting heart – be supportive of ministries and forms of prayer that may not be my “thing” without be controlled by the controllers.
- "Smile” and love – and if I can’t, I smile anyway and then take a long walk to clear my head and discover what is causing me not to “smile” and love.
What kids are saying about love: "Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." Danny - age 7.
Let us continue to pray for peace in our world!
In peace and courage,