Monday, March 25, 2013


Parochial vicars (priest assistants) are moved every four years in this diocese. It is shocking to me that four years have almost past since Fr. Pfeiffer came to St. Sebastian and he will soon be moving on.  Funny, we have different views on this upcoming event.   
I am so upset that I misspelled "really" in the above cartoons.  Twice. 
I have never dealt with being the pastor and going through the process of getting a new (hopefully - we shall see) parochial vicar.  Because of this I have become rather aware of the rough job that the powers that be have.  It is so complicated somebody should really make a board game of it.
Now, one would think that one simply lines up the priests in one column and the available placements in the other and draw lines connecting the two.
But such is not the case.  It is a bit more like Sudoku.  All kinds of hidden factors come in to play. 
It isn't enough just to move the players around.  Just for example: In general you don't simply move a priest from one parish the one next door.  That can cause all kinds of problems.  One might be that the priest was very popular and the people take off and follow him not giving the next guy a chance.  That can be devastating for a parish.  Or lifestyle choices don't mesh.  One of the first things - no, the very first thing I asked Fr. Pfeiffer when I met him was, "Do you like dogs?"  This whole thing would not have worked out if he didn't get along with Sebastian.
There are other considerations also.  For example: The St. Sebastian rectory, while nice, is not very friendly if you are not fit.  There are at least 5 sets of stairs between any room and the sanctuary of the church.  Also, if you like baths, this place only has showers.  Well, there is a bath in my room and in one of the offices, but they are TINY.  They really should be called low wash basins.  Being over six foot I find them almost useless for anything save for giving the dog a bath.
But just when you think you are done - other unforeseen factors hit the fan:
The bishop may send somebody away for studies.  Or a priest might reassigned for a spell outside of the diocese, or (God forbid) somebody becomes very ill . . . or something else unforeseen.  So say a pastor applies for the vacancy.  He then, in turn, creates a vacancy.  So you move pastors around to fill the pastor spots and after that complete rearrangement is done, you still need to take somebody out of the vicar rotation and plug them into the pastor spot that remains open - which may mean all of the other vicar assignments now need to be re-arranged.
And how do you win this game?  There really is only one way:


Beth Lemer said...

I really had no idea that there were more then one Pastor Vicar named Fr. Pfieffer other then the one in north dakota!
Small world...

Fr. V said...

Well, add to the list! There are 3 in this diocese!

Anonymous said...

Or... perhaps make the assignments just a wee bit longer than 4 years and thus delay the difficulty. Four years is really just enough time for an associate to come into a parish, lay a shallow foundation, and then watch it fall apart after they leave for lack of nurturing. But perhaps I'm just letting repeated and painful experience speak before wisdom, eh?

I have seen a great many good works fall to pieces because 4 years was just not a long enough season to sow, water, reap, and teach renewed hearts to fly solo. If I were an outside observer and inclined to pessimism, I would think that the system was designed specifically to fail.

And I agree that moving priests "next door" would result in an exodus with each move. There's a reason for that... and it's not really a bad one. It's that people are starving and thirsty for truth and love and the guidance that a good priest can give. But the result is that practical considerations (like not wanting to empty the pews of one church) result in the removal of a source of support (or even one's regular confessor) from a position of influence.

The world is a cold, hard, heartless place for the faithful and we walk in it every day clinging to our faith. Perhaps moving associates is fruitful for a variety of reasons, but it really and truly stinks for a whole host of others.

I will mention one particular casualty of this policy and then let it go. When one faithful associate priest who has loved people well is replaced by a tepid priest obviously struggling with his vocation. Of these there are far too many and perhaps the root of the concern. Watching the fallout is like watching a battle scene. People falling left and right. Ugly. Perhaps if faithfulness was followed by faithfulness, there would continuity of support and truth.

You may be grateful it's not your job but I pray that someone with authority will start to truly understand the practical damage that such a policy creates in a diocese like ours. Shifting of priests may be a kind of puzzle or game. But hearts are more complex and most of us do not need prescribed lessons in detachment, but simply the basics of leading a faithful life.

Mara Joy said...

or, you could look at it on the bright side. Instead of one parish getting to "hog" a "good" priest, while all the parishioners next door are having their faith challenged by their tepid priest (or at the other end of the diocese or wherever,) by moving the "good" priest, we can hope that the parishioners who have benefitted from his wisdom and inspiring example over the past 4 years are able to continue to grow in spiritual maturity, leaning on what they have learned in the past 4 years (assuming that priest was so amazing,) and the parishioners who are going to get the "good" priest now get a wonderful example of a holy man, instead of continuing to plod along with the "tepid" priest.

I don't think priest reassignments are generally pleasant, but I also don't think the solution is to just let every priest stay at his parish his whole life.

Anonymous said...

what if the Bishop doesn't send anyone at all? that would be devastating . . . no?

Sharon said...

You and Fr P seem to get along really well; I am sure that you will miss him whilst welcoming his replacement.