An Encouraging Word — ‘It takes a village to train a pastor’

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” I Corinthians 12:21

I am one happy priest! After 42 years of priesthood, I feel blessed to be able to say that I love what I do more and more. All in all, I am having a ball!

One of the things that makes me happy is being director of the Saint Meinrad Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, a program offering interdiocesan support for priests after ordination through retirement. Our programs include: transition from seminary into ministry, settling into priesthood, gearing up to be a pastor, new pastors, mentor training, unity-building convocations for priests and their bishops, priest sabbaticals and retreats. Eventually we will add pre-retirement and post-retirement programs.

“Seminary ain’t what it used to be!”

In the pre-Vatican II church, ongoing formation was minimal and exceptional. Blessed John Paul II taught that a lifetime of ongoing formation needs to follow the initial formation of the seminary.

Most of our teachers are laymen and laywomen, religious sisters and brothers. Blessed John Paul II made it clear that, “The entire People of God can and should offer precious assistance to the ongoing formation of its priests.”

This past week, we held our first “new pastors program” in the recently renovated Bede Hall after moving into new offices a few weeks before that.

The week began with one of our Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly Lectures in Pastoral Practice. The speaker was a religious brother who talked about “Welcoming Marginalized Catholics.”

The next evening, we had one of our “cooking classes” in our new state-of-the-art “teaching kitchen,” an important part of our new St. John Vianney Life Skills Center. Because nearly 70% of all U.S. priests now live alone, without the benefit of housekeepers and cooks, we offer training to our new pastors on health and wellness, including eating healthily. A local chef, a married layman, taught them how to make six different healthy meals from a store-bought rotisserie chicken!

Sister Angela Shaughnessy, a Sister of Charity and a lawyer who teaches in our program regularly, focused on what pastors need to know about civil law and how it affects the running of a church and school. Justin Clements, a human relations consultant and trainer from Evansville, Ind., and another regular, taught them about leadership, fund raising, marketing, customer service and communications skills.

Sawyer Stern, wife of a Lutheran pastor, taught them about parish risk management and insurance. Father Lincoln Dall, a former CPA from Jackson Mississippi, taught them about what pastors need to know about finances and accounting, especially how to relate to parish finance councils.

Other regulars include our own Brian Reynolds, who speaks on parish administration. Siggi Hamilton teaches personal taxes; Tricia Hollander, personal budgeting and retirement planning; Ryan LaMoth dealing with disappointment, discouragement and disillusionment and Melanie Buschkoetter on health and wellness. Others cover things such as staff development, strategic planning and use of volunteers.

It takes a village to train a new pastor!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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