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HDYDI: Win the Heart of Your Priest

Back when I was in college at Texas A&M, just a few years ago {ahem}, I took a pretty awesome class. Ag 101 with Dr. Joe. His primary objective was to help us survive our freshman year. If you left his class with anything less than an “A,” you were a fool. During that one-hour a week class, we learned where to sit, how to get to know our professors, how to find a major and the skills to acquire to land our first job.

The two best pieces of advice he gave us? “Make sure your professor knows your name” and “Degrees open doors, people get you jobs.”

So much of what he shared with us was life lesson kind of stuff. I see myself applying those two pieces of advice in nearly every area of my life. Church has been no different.

So, how do you win the heart of your own parish priest? How do you welcome him into your family and provide an opportunity for him to witness to your children? All I know is that every priest and every family is different. Here’s our take.

Win the heart of your priest

1. Take him to Italy. Rather, let him take YOU to Italy! Okay, so perhaps a two-week stay in the most beautiful place on Earth isn’t in your budget, but taking a pilgrimage – of any sort – with your priest allows you both to get to know one another outside the parish walls. Perhaps your parish is hosting a movie night at the local theatre, taking a day trip to visit churches or is planning a youth outing to Six Flags or Sea World. GO. Seeing your priest outside of the church and living in the world helps you build a friendship. And, as much as our priests find community with one another, they also need witnesses of family life. It makes them a better priest and you a better parent. Trust me on that one.

2. Invite him over for dinner. Really, what priest doesn’t enjoy a home-cooked meal? Our only rule when a priest comes to dinner is that he must wear his collar. I want my boys to see him as a priest, but also as a priest who loves to laugh, eat and fellowship with his parishioners. It doesn’t hurt if you ask your priest his favorite meal or play a mad game of Jenga, either.

3. Give him honest feedback. When something at your parish is going well, tell him. No one ever does that. Did he move a Holy Day of Obligation Mass to 6pm so more families could attend? Tell him he is a rockstar! He needs to know when he makes a positive change. And, when something doesn’t go well, don’t you dare complain without a real solution to the problem. Our former priest at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel used to jokingly call the parish Our Lady of Many Complaints. Be a problem solver. Be the solution. Don’t just be that family that assumes, then complains and then writes a scathing letter to the Bishop without first talking to your parish priest. It’s just silly.

4. Volunteer. It doesn’t really matter if you straighten the missals after Mass, count the money, teach a religious education class or simply plant the flowers outside the church. Do something. Find your gift, your charism, and give a small piece of it back to the church. Not only will you get to know your priest, but you’ll meet some lovely parishioners along the way. That’s what we call stewardship – community-building in action.

5. Pray for him. Any vocation is hard. There are no easy ones. At night, I sleep next to the person that prays for me most in this world. Your priest is relying on you. He needs your fervent prayers, your support and your love. Don’t be stingy with any of the three.

6. Listen to him. Every priest has a gift. Some are wonderful homilists, others are fabulous confessors and some run a pretty efficient parish office. Whatever your priest’s gift is, don’t wish it was something else. How does he teach your parish about the love of God? Listen to that lesson and let it influence how you practice your own faith. No priest is perfect, nor is every parishioner. Love the season that he serves your parish, rather than wishing the time away.

7. Let him go. There comes a time in every parish when the priest is reassigned. It’s okay to be sad, but please don’t bellyache. Throw him a party, hug his neck, get his email address and stop by to visit him at his new parish every once in a while. But remember that the parish isn’t the priest, it’s the whole of the community. Just as you fostered and loved your priest, know that the next spiritual father needs your support, prayers, love and advice as much (if not more) than your previous priest. There’s no statement I hate worse than, “Well, the church was great until Father so-and-so arrived. It’s just not the same anymore.” He’s the new kid on the block, make him feel welcome and lift him up!

St. John Vianney, pray for all those holy priests!

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5 Comments

  1. verdinalouisa on October 7, 2013 at 9:51 am

    What great advice from a woman who practices what she preaches!

    God bless!
    V

  2. Amanda on October 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

    What great advice–especially the last. Our beloved priest retired last weekend and we welcomed our new priest Sunday. Many prayers being lifted up for him!

  3. Dianne on October 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. : )

  4. […] He’s just been assigned the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for our diocese. In layman’s terms he just became the COO and earned the privilege of performing many of the bishop’s duties. Somebody is about to be very busy. The good news is my husband will get to see him at the office everyday and I’m sure we’ll crash the party from time to time. So, while he’s leaving our parish, he’s never leaving our hearts. We look forward to welcoming our new priest, Fr. Ed, into our parish family (and having him over for dinner). Time to take my own advice. […]

  5. […] given First Eucharist to two of our children and I’ve sung his praises when chatting about winning the heart of your parish priest. March 3 will be a lovely, lovely day. We can’t wait to see it in […]

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