Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Priest as Leader and Father

I've been thinking a lot about priesthood and leadership and fatherhood and vision for the past year or so - for some reason even more vividly recently.

The priest, going back to the beginning, has had a three fold mission laid at his feet by Christ and the Church.
1) Lead worship (dispense the Sacraments)
2) Teach the Faith
3) Govern (lead the community)

I think fatherhood is one of those things that is so absent from our world today, and because it is so absent, I think many people don't know how to be fathers (fathers of families or priestly fathers). The thing that I've been blessed with is my own father's example (and my grandfather's), along with many fatherly priests in my life, and also many good fathers to observe from afar (Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Buechlein) etc.

One of the key things that I'm trying to prepare/hone is the ability to lead/govern a community. I like to teach, so #2 is pretty natural for me, and I think #1 is pretty natural fit for me (although it is certainly more than simply reading the words) - it is #3 that I think is difficult for many men today, whether it be priests or dads.

What people secretly want from those who are their fathers is first of all a vision, and secondly the determination to get there without being paralyzed by fear of making mistakes. Any leader has people who whine and moan about decisions, but ultimately they would leave if they didn't, on some level, still want the person to be their leader. I've come to this conclusion through discussions with lots of people (priests, dads, moms, parishioners, etc.). Someone sent me a video clip from the president of Marian University, Mr. Dan Elsener, and I think it just does such a good job, in a few minutes, of kind of encapsulating the type of leader I want to be. Of course he talks about money and fundraising, but even then I think his answers strike me as profound, fatherly, and spot on. I hope this short clip inspires you to continue to reflect on the type of leader you are called to be, because we are all, in one capacity or another, leading people.


  1. Father John,

    This makes me so happy and relieved to see. It's nice to see that you aspire to be a real father to the community, because there are many members of the Catholic Church who see priests as spiritual fathers as I do. As much as I hate to admit it, we are sometimes let down by those who have become jaded or never had that vision to begin with and it has made me question whether it's a good idea to make emotional investments in the leaders of our parish/Church/etc. I try to push through those feelings by remembering that there are priests like you who truly to want to be that spiritual father.

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