Priests are overworked, isolated, etc.

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

A news item recently from the US reported that many American priests are stressed out, burned out due to the load they carry, and that many of them feel isolated. To top it all, they are assailed now by a lot of scandals ranging from financial mismanagement and sexual abuses.

My immediate reaction to this item is, of course, to pray for them. Let us hope that both the concerned Church authorities and the priests themselves would find some effective solutions to these problems.

I also felt that there must be some relation between these problems of overwork and isolation, and the consequent scandals that now stain the image of priests in the US. When one is tired, exhausted, feeling isolated and uncared for, I believe we have a terrible mix that makes one most susceptible to all kinds of anomalies and disorders.

What also came to my mind is that more or less the same problems beset many of our local priests also. At least the few I know complain about having so much work that they can hardly cope and that they want to have someone who can listen to them and share their plight. They want to vent out some bad air that is compressing in their hearts.

These problems are always a challenge to the Church authorities who should come up and animate appropriate programs, structures and networks. More than these, they should find ways of how to go to the personal level of each of the priests in their care.

The care for priests should step out of the impersonal bureaucratic mold. The relation between bishops and priests and among priests should be fraternal and friendly. If this atmosphere is missing, something drastic and immediate should be done to resolve it.

One idea in this direction could be the promotion of priestly societies that would foster priestly fraternity that is vivified by a particular charism or spirituality. All priests should be encouraged to join these societies. These societies can help eliminate or at least minimize that dangerous situation where priests would feel isolated and uncared for.

The practice of spiritual direction, confession or just friendly chats where issues, problems and difficulties are brought out should be constantly encouraged. It cannot be denied that many of the priests have the tendency to keep to themselves, not wanting to open up to anyone.

In that way, they do not become transparent which is a condition the enemies of God and of our soul like so much. Priests should learn to be brutally sincere about the condition of their spiritual and priestly life. They have to call a spade a spade. Hiding things that are significant in priestly life would be like keeping a pact with the devil.

It is when priests have spiritual direction, confession or chat with a friend that they can be better helped in their life of prayers and sacrifice, so indispensable in priestly life and ministry. It is undebatable that when a priest’s life of prayer and sacrifice is not in order, his priestly life and ministry will simply collapse sooner or later.

In spiritual direction, confession or chats, priestly problems and issues can be better sorted out and given appropriate solutions, suggestions and action.

I know that dioceses hold for their ongoing formation for priests regular annual retreats and monthly days of recollection. These means of formation are always good, except that many priests attend them mainly for compliance purposes.

Hardly anything about spiritual conversion or growth and enrichment is achieved. How to have the proper effects of these means of formation is indeed a great challenge for everyone! But no matter how daunting the challenge is, both Church authorities and priests themselves should just persist in finding the appropriate solutions.