Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reader Response to Good Friday Liturgy, "Pastoral Team"

The following is an anonymous comment from a previous post regarding the in solidum/"Pastoral Team" method on the Kenai Peninsula.  Please pray for the priests, nuns, and administrators mentioned below, and offer what sacrifices you can for their conversion of heart.  Tenebrae facta sunt.

I would like to comment on the issue of the rotating priests. This system has been ineffective from the very first. The priests traveled to the three parishes on the Peninsula in succession, staying one Sunday, and in Homer's case, Friday through Wed morning. The effect was a situation very similar to what was in place when there was no permanent priests. The exclusive case was Fr. Tero, who being alone and covering the entire Peninsula, still managed to visit, come to our homes for dinner, become friends with us, more like a Pastor of old. Our three priests, although always attempting to be effective as priests, are not familiar to us. Fr. Tony is more familiar than Fr. Joe and Fr. Andy. But there is little more than chit chat that takes place between us. Numerous parishioners have commented that they wanted to get to know the priests better, spend time with them, but when asked to get together, there is never time. At Church after Mass, there is the usual greetings and smiles, then the running away to meetings. (No peaceful time to just be a pastor to us.)

One event that shocked many soon after our three new priests arrived was the announcement by Fr.Tony at Mass one Sunday that parishioners were not to come to the priests and ask questions. They were to go to the Parish Directors who would then tell the priests what parishioners needed. The impact was painful and reverberating. The abandonment felt by many of the parishioners was profound and yet there was to be no redress, until apparently, the Bishop stepped in and suggested there should be more contact between the priests and the parishioners. This situation seemed to be part and parcel with the desire to make sure the current structure, i.e. the parishes run by the parish councils and Directors, be reassured that their positions and authority would not be changed. Confusion remained as to what the new priests were here to accomplish.

Another situation that occured and that was equally shocking was the power struggle that took place at Our Lady of the Angels soon after the arrival of our new priests. Fr. Tony offered to say Mass Monday through Friday at 9:00 am. This occured for several weeks until one Sunday at Soldotna, the Parish Director announced after Sunday Mass that the new schedule for daily mass at Kenai would be Tuesday through Friday. Fr. Tony, was in the pews with the congregation, corrected her and said he would be saying it M-F. The Parish Administrator looked suprised yet did not refute this. However, that next week there was no Mass at Kenai on Monday and the schedule was and continues to be T-F.

The stories of how much control is parlayed between the current parish administrators goes on and on. One parishioner has taken communion to a home bound women who has asked on numerous occasions to have a priest visit her. But the administrators tell her she will be put on a waiting list and so another caring parishioners brings her communion. Again, when Fr. Tero was here, this women had regular visits from him and in the past year and a half this same women has had only two visits from the current priests.

There was a young man who died in the past year. When the grandmother attempted to talk to the priests about the funeral, she was told she would need to talk to the Parish Administrator of her parish. Another family in Homer sought the help of the priests to deal with a very sad family situation and the father wanted help bringing hope to the family. Yet the father was told there was no time for that. This person was very sad and felt abandoned once more.

In the ensuing time since our new priests have come, there does not seem to be any improvement in communication between priests and parishioners. I do not believe it is the non-desire of the priests, but the power struggles that are ever present here on the Peninsula. The priests are muted, kept in their place by the (dare I say it) feminists who fear they have no valid place unless they are in charge and telling the men what they can and cannot do. Control is the issue of the day. I must continually remind myself that we are living through the breakdown of the church that took place with what Pope Benedict calls the rupture of continuity. It will take time for the Holy Spirit to reclaim the hearts of the people. So we offer our sacrafices for the Church and our healing.

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