Once upon a time: Your pastor needs you

By Monsignor Xavier Mankel

There was a time when things shut down for the summer, especially for school folks — but not anymore.

Now, most of us run, run, run all the time, taking a few days for vacation when we can work it in. Plenty goes on year-round, so that we have to refer to calendars often, even during the summer, to find out where we need to be on any given day.

Trends in the diocese are no exception.

Most priests are not ready for the shock of moving to a new assignment. It always is wonderful to meet new friends, but in most of our churches there are so many people to meet in a short time that it makes your head spin.

People think they know the “new” priest after a minute with him in the vestibule. I’ve had people come and tell me goodbye after being in the parish several years. They seem to know me, but it really was only that first-day experience when words were exchanged.

Other encounters have been at meetings, from the pulpit, etc., and it’s just not the same. Maybe in some smaller parishes the new priest is invited to dinner by parishioners, so that he won’t have to meet so many people at one time. It is common for a priest to hear that “the only time I’ve ever talked to my pastor was when I made plans for my mother’s funeral,” or perhaps “at a meeting of mothers about the third grade at the school.”

The pastor shares many of the characteristics as the father in the family. Acting that way may seem to satisfy some situations, but not all. Everybody needs some casual greeting from the pastor, but most people need more. Please make it a point to have more serious meetings with the pastor every three months or so.

This way, an exit meeting later will truly be an exit meeting.

Even after 20 years, there is something to be said to people as they leave the parish.

Gone are the days when the pastor has all the answers. The input of parishioners helps him do a better job leading the parish. If you have an idea that you think will help the parish grow, jot it down and give it to the pastor. This is not a subject for casual conversation, as the idea may go beyond a conversation. If you do not get the response you want, bring it up later.

Each parish, even small ones, need more brainpower than a solo priest can offer to run one. Your participation in parish council meetings also will be very helpful.

Some small parishes need this participation, and all large parishes need more of it. Have a meaningful relationship with your new pastor, and a more cordial one, if you do not know your existing one well.

As the Diocese of Knoxville approaches 50 parishes, the good ideas from families can be shared in all parishes — large and small.

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