Thursday, February 22, 2007


Should there be a term limit on the assignment of your pastor to your parish? That is the question put to a little diocesan advisory committee of which I happen to be a member. We will be gathering soon to discuss term limits (six years renewable for another six) and were told to "gather information and opinions," though not exactly told how to go about it. So I turn to you. If you have a thought or an experience concerning this, it would help hearing about it. Feel free to Email it to me. Here is an ARTICLE debating stability and term limits. While an excellent article, it is rather one-sided on the issue so you may want to begin forming an idea before you read it. Thanks!


uncle jim said...

My heart says "NO"
My head says "YES"

Explanations to follow sometime in next couple of days when more than a few minutes are available.

Might even have an experience or two to share.

uncle jim said...

In 2003 we lost our beloved pastor - he died and left us heartbroken - he was MUCH beloved ... a very holy and pious man ... much gifted pastorally ... he had served our parish many years prior as an associate ... went elsewhere and was returned 2 dead pastors later to take on the role of pastor ... he then served as pastor FOR 29 YEARS. We were not here for all of those years, but grew to love him as did most everyone else. He administered with a fairly tight hand and allowed very little to delegation - of course there were some exceptions, but overall it took a lot for him to trust someone's way of doing things enough for him to pretty much let that person do it without much micro-management. Yet, unbeknownst to most of us, he was administering rather poorly. On his departure, a dioscesan audit found many problems in the way the business side of the parish had been run ... and how the facilities were maintained [or not] ... and the new guy had to live up against the deceased pastor's extremely popular reputation and almost cult-like following. Nothing the new guy did was any good because that's not the way Fr.X did it ... and as problems were found that needed to be taken care of, they all became the new guy's problem and he took heavy hits from many - unjustly. SO our heavy hearts would have had our deceased pastor resurrrected and here forever. But I can tell you, now, from my head, that he should have been changed out several times. Yes, I believe in providing our pastors and priests some stability in their living situation ... but staying put is not good for them or the parish they SERVE. New blood, new ideas, new ways of seeing things, new opportunities to serve and use gifts in various places and touching more lives by moving around, I now believe is good. Moving becomes part and parcel of a ministry freely chosen - to be a parish priest. Six years is a fair amount of time to accomplish something ... for cause another 6 years might be added. BUT, by then it is time to shuffle the deck and deal them out again ... to be used up by the Holy SPirit in whatever way he has been gifted to minister. It also gives the parishioners a chance to grow in the acceptance of someone new every 6 or 12 years ... they know it is coming and they need to adapt to it.

uncle jim said...

Rethink -
Alright! Now, I've read the article. And I admit it has some strong arguments that would give pause to any hasty opinions. I suspect that, as in my own story above, the attachments I referenced were the good result of the arguments presented in the article. So, the 'obvious' solutions to the issues I mentioned as problems would surely include better oversight. Using a business model, there must be ways to audit and measure performance in the many areas vital to the life of that business. Without them, and without the regular systematic review of them, things fall between the cracks and go unnoticed until they become a real problem - affecting even the survival of the business. So, let's leave a 'pastor' in place for longer periods, but not forever. Perhaps the 10-15 year model, but there have to be means of being sure he is both 'father' and CEO. And the diocese needs recovery, or turn-around, experts who can help a 'father' who is drowning as CEO, and vice-a-versa.

So much for this session. I'll go back to chewing my cud for awhile and see what else comes up.

Fr. V said...

Thanks Uncle Jim! That was the kind of ripping insight for which I was searching. Thus far I think I am with you. Moving regularly solves some problems but not all. Both systems have their flaws. But better oversight might be the key to the best of the pick.

Eric B said...

My diocese has this 6 and 6 rule for most pastors, some pastors don't have to follow this rule and I don't know why, one priest had been at his parish for 20 years before he retired, not sure why he was allowed to do that - he was a diocesan priest (my diocese does have religious order pastors and they usually can stay as long as they want and as long as they are doing God's work). I think 6 year terms are good, but I think there shouldn't be a limit to 12 years, if after 12 years a pastor wants to stay and the people want him to stay, he should be able to stay; however, like Uncle jim says - there may need to be some intense scrutiny in how the pastor is doing administration and finances after each 6 years to make sure the pastor is not neglecting those parts of the job.

I really do think that if Catholics can ever get to a good level of tithing and stewardship, then I think there should be a separation between pastor and parish admistrator, leaving the pastor to do all the spiritual work of the parish and letting the administrator handle administration and finances (and having the administrator be trained for that job, some times pastors do not have good administration or finance skills). I would think the pastor would have veto power over the administrator if he sees something he didn't like in finances or administration. This would free up the pastor to do more catechetical work especially in parishes that have schools and would allow pastor more time to pray and be the shepherd of his flock.