Newly Ordained Priests
CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR NEWLY ORDAINED PRIESTS
In order to accompany the young priests in this first delicate phase of their life and ministry, it is very opportune, and perhaps even absolutely necessary nowadays, to create a suitable support structure, with appropriate guides and teachers. PDV 76.
 PERSONAL ISSUES
Different expectations in priests: identifying themselves from their role and being above the people or from being oneself and with the people. "Concelebration is a struggle: to be with my brother priests or with the people?"
- APPROPRIATE LIFESTYLE
Finding an appropriate lifestyle, including quality time for personal growth and for constant monitoring of expected goals.
- MOVEMENTS IN ONE'S LIFE
Facing questions of survival and insecurity. "Who am I now?" "People look up to me." "So alone!" "How close do I get to people?"
- CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Develop reconciling skills where incompatibility or individualism prevents collaboration, wasting energy and producing sterile results.
- SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
Discovering the need for spiritual direction and companioning in personal issues, to negotiate emerging and developing situations, and to recognise realistically the movements of God in one's life.
 PASTORAL NEEDS
A new priest needs guidelines from the seminary formation staff, and from his bishop and presbyterate: setting clear goals for his ministry of word, sacraments, and community: What hours does he work? Provision for appraisal.
Ability to work with ambiguities and know how to make choices. "The seminary did not equip me to discern priorities and to make choices."
- PEER SUPPORT
Need for ways of finding peer support and opportunities to participate in regular gatherings of young priests to reflect on priesthood, models of ministry, church, and the future. Busyness and costs can discourage many. Such sharing gives energy.
- PERSONAL MENTOR*
Need for someone, other than the Parish Priest, not to tell a new priest what to do but to help him find the value of what he does: enable him to see when he is an asset and not a liability in his ministry, by swapping notes to see what he might have done better or more appropriately in a given situation.
- COPING WITH FEWER PRIESTS
Coping with fewer priests and busyness: Work more or work less? Need to inspire people to do much of the work: "prophets need to do less work". Need to define goals and work out priorities. Balance "hands on" and "hands off" times? Time for oneself without feeling guilty: to absorb learning in "hands on time". "No Mass today, Father?" Work as "presbyters" and not as "managers."
 KEY DECISIONS
- FIRST APPOINTMENT
A new priest needs to have time being a priest before becoming a PP. Importance of one's first Parish Priest being able to recognise the gifts a new priest brings. Importance of the new priest feeling compatible with his PP and being able to recognise in him a role model to shape his future ministry.
- TYPE OF PARISH
The newly ordained need a context of collaborative ministry in their first parish. A parish that is broadly understood as space for collaborative ministry: planning and deciding together, working with and not simply for the people.
Who pays for what? Retreats? Seminars? Sabbaticals? Funding in different dioceses varies greatly. Taken for granted that dioceses fund seminarians - but surprising reluctance in some to fund ongoing education for priests.
Consultants were chosen from a variety of places either because of their recognised experience with the newly ordained or because they were themselves recently ordained. The group met twice in Canberra for a day, in July and again in August 1997. After the meetings the material discussed was processed, returned to consultants for comment, and then processed again for further comment. It was finally drawn up in this form for presentation to the Bishops, Diocesan Directors, Provincials of Clerical Religious Orders, and Seminary Formation Staff to use in any way they might find helpful.
- Fr Paul Clark, Wilcannia-Forbes (Bourke NSW)
- Fr Brian Delaney, Adelaide (St Mary's SA)
- Fr Danny Meagher, Sydney (Mt Prichard NSW)
- Fr Matthew O'Hagan, Sandhurst (Wodonga, VIC)
- Fr John Rate, msc (Kippax, ACT)
- Fr John Sullivan, Sydney (Mosman NSW)
- Fr John Reilly, sj (Executive Officer)
* Appendix: A description of "Mentoring", courtesy of the Australian Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
25 May 1998