By Father J. Ronald Knott
In all circumstances, give thanks. I Thessalonians 5:18
Because of a statistic that we were losing 10 to 15 percent of our young priests in their first five years because of “loneliness and feelings of being unappreciated,” the Lilly Foundation gave St. Meinrad Seminary nearly $2 million for me to start the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates to address the solutions to these losses.
One bishop described leaving the seminary as “having all your IVs pulled out at once.” That, and the fact, that dioceses were having one or two ordinations each year at the most, exacerbated the problem. I believe we made some good progress, especially through our many “unity of priests with their bishops and each other” workshops that I am still conducting.
The problem of “feelings of being unappreciated” is not restricted to young priests. Many spouses, parents and teachers feel the same way. They often report feeling used, abused and taken for granted. In reaction, those who are accused of a lack of appreciation often respond, “I appreciate you. Do I have to say it all the time?”
I believe we have a cultural problem when it comes to unexpressed gratitude. Feelings of entitlement are so entrenched, especially among the young, that showing appreciation and gratitude is growing rarer by the day. William Arthur Ward, an American inspirational writer, said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and never giving it.”
I am pretty good about sending thank-you notes when someone does something for me. I now have about 100 self-designed cards in my computer that I can print off quickly.
Expressing one’s gratitude is something I tried to teach seminarians. When those about to be ordained would show me their ordination invitations, I would always ask “… and where are the thank you cards?”
When I do something for my nieces and nephews I expect to be thanked, not because I need to hear it, but because they need to express it!
When I was in the seminary from age 14-26, I was always wanting to give my mother something but never had the money. Looking back, what I gave her was what she needed most and that was my attention and appreciation. I liked to make her laugh, be with her and dream with her about “what I was going to do for her someday when I was ordained and had some money.”
Lacking money, I gave her time and attention. During breaks from the seminary, we would stay up late at night just talking. She never complained, but I always wondered if she didn’t often feel that people were more interested in what she could do for them than what they could do for her. I have no regrets. I expressed my appreciation for her freely and often, as did my brothers and sisters and several of her neighbors.
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog:FatherKnott.com