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The exemplary pastor

English Spanish Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ Profile

When a new pastor arrives at a parish that has been in existence for years, he should proceed with lead feet. He must begin by posing questions to the parish volunteers and parishioners about the different aspects of that community of the faithful. In no way can he present himself as someone who brings mentally prefabricated plans without taking into consideration the concrete reality of the parish.

The so-called "taking possession" of the parish is not to be interpreted as taking ownership of the parish; rather, it refers to taking possession of the office. Pastors are not the parish masters. In every parish there are auxiliary personnel for offices and maintenance; there are employees. The humble pastor does not consider himself lord and master, but a qualified employee of the parishioners. Since the parishioners provided the funds to build the parish and continue to contribute tirelessly to its support, he cannot look upon them as subjects, but as those to whom he must give an account of his stewardship.

In many parishes, the work of the sacristy and other support services are provided free of charge. The grateful parish priest cannot treat these self-sacrificing collaborators as if they were infant altar servers.

In parishes that have parochial vicars, the pastor must consider the opinion of his brothers in the priesthood. He cannot simply assign them tasks. He must plan with them parish ministries, such as the liturgies of high seasons like Christmas and Holy Week.

Every new pastor, in imitation of his patron St. John Marie Vianney, should begin by praying much for the flock entrusted to him. And he should ask God for much guidance and strength to carry out his mission with success. Without daily personal prayer there will be no fruitful apostolate.

The Holy Spirit has blessed the Church of our times with many apostolic movements. When a new pastor comes to a parish, he should support what already exists; by no means extinguish it. Of course, he will later have to evaluate those groups.

When he meets for the first time with the parish council, an extremely necessary entity, he will say that he is only interested in seeking God's will together with them, and not in pursuing a personal agenda. He will convene this council frequently.

Another important body in parishes is the council for financial matters. The pastor must appear to its members to be free of attachment to money. There are pastors who prefer not to write checks or make cash payments themselves, but to channel all monetary matters through the parish accountant.

Experience shows that the pastor with a modest and austere life is the one who receives the most financial support from parishioners. The fervent pastor prefers to focus his time and energies on evangelizing and sanctifying his parishioners, not on fundraising.

It is incumbent upon the pastor to see that he and his vicars celebrate the sacraments according to the approved rituals, faithfully observing the instructions in small red letters (rubrics). The Holy Mass deserves special honor.

Parishioners have a right to the Liturgy of the Church. Priests conscious of their mission do not privatize or personalize it with mutilations, changes and additions to the liturgical texts. They renounce the narcissistic pursuit of liturgical creativity, limiting their creativity to preparing good homilies, something that often leaves much to be desired.

Every new pastor would find it very helpful to read and study Book II of the Code of Canon Law, Chapter Six, Section II, titled "Parishes, Pastors, And Parochial Vicars" (Canons 515-552).

Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
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Comments from readers

Maria Maguire - 08/09/2021 04:18 PM
Thank you so much, Fr Barrios. All practicing Catholics in this diocese and probably all over the U.S. have experienced the "change of command" that comes in a community with a new pastor. You describe the many tasks and challenges that a new pastor will have to deal with in the beginning. I am sure that if all read and study Book II of the Code of Canon Law, Chapter Six, Section II, titled "Parishes, Pastors, And Parochial Vicars" (Canons 515-552), they will have a guiding light in this new mission as a shepherd of a new community. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide our Catholic priests under the mantle of Our Lady, the Virgin Mother of Jesus. Thank you again.!
Jose M Lorenzo - 08/09/2021 11:08 AM
Father, I cannot agree more with you. I did not had the experience of a new Pastor in my life. The one in my Parish has a great experience and deserve to be recognized. In my humble opinion on your beautiful article you are describing him without mentioning his name. I also believe that pastors have so much in their hands and responsibilities that a new Pastor is maybe a little squashed between tasks. I thanks God every day for having Father Sullivan as a pastor believe me he does what you recommend on your paper and more. Maybe is also because all the priests in my parish are Trinitarian as I am sure that you well know Trinitarians priests could not seek to be other than priests and could turn down any ecclesiastic promotions if their like. I do believe that is why all the priests of my parish never complain and are to my standards very hard workers of God. Very respectfully, Jose M Lorenzo, Husher by the grace of God at Our Lady of The Holy Rosary and Saint Richard in Palmetto Bay. Padre tengo que mencionar esto porque en verdad estos ministros de nuestro Señor y Dios me han dado una lección de coraje laboral ya que son incansables, modestos y sirven a los parroquianos como usted lo describe en su muy pertinente articulo y mas porque lo hacen con muchísimo amor con todos nosotros los trabajadores voluntarios. Hoy el dia de mis 70 veranos, creame padre que considero un deber mencionar esto. Con todo mi amor en Christo con usted, Jose M Lorenzo su servidor después de Dios.
HECTOR GONZALEZ - 08/09/2021 10:53 AM
Gracias Padre Barrios por esta bella vision de lo que es una comunidad parroquial, los diversos ministerios, la participacion de la feligresia, la labor y mision del Parroco y demas sacerdotes asociados a su ministerio. Es basico que los sacerdotes dediquen un buen tiempo cada dia a poder llenarse de Dios, asi lograr al mismo tiempo una solidez y seguridad interior, que les, nos, permita el hacerle frente con calma espiritual a los diversos avatares de la vida diaria, en un mundo completamente sumergido en el acontecer de cada dia. Los va i vienes (vaivenes) de cada epoca.
Efrain Sora - 08/09/2021 10:51 AM
Thank you Fr. Barios! Excellent post! We continue to pray for Holy Priests.
Rafael María Calvo Forte - 08/09/2021 10:41 AM
Gracias, padre, qué oportunos y sabios consejos para los párrocos: me llaman la atención lo referente a las homilías; aunque en mi parroquia son admirables, en otros sitios se habla de anécdotas y hasta de futbol, amén de errores escriturísticos. Tengo la sensación por comentarios escuchados, la proliferación de las misas en rito tridentino, que tanta confusión están provocando. Algunos presbíteros “ detestan” la liturgia de Vaticano II. Esto debería corregirse cuanto antes. No sé qué gusto por el latín, que la mayoría de los curas no lo estudiaron y esto se presta a no comprender la riqueza de la palabra; por lo tanto, nunca se cuestiionadán. Dios nos preserve de un cisma.
Valli Leone - 08/09/2021 10:07 AM
Thank you, Father Eduardo, for this enlightening article which, I believe, is very much needed in our Church. Your guidelines and advice truly is the fruit of a humble heart. May every priest, parochial vicar, deacon, religious, ministry and parish member benefit from this good work which you have written—that the gates of hell might never prevail against His and our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Jesus never fails! ✝️⚓️💜
Rodolfo G - 08/09/2021 09:58 AM
Gracias Padre por este artículo, provechoso a todos. Dios nos bendiga y nos guarde

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