Information Bulletin 84
Dear Brothers in Ministry
The last two Bulletins (Diabetes, Christmas in mega-parishes) brought with them many positive responses. Many thanks for your generous comments. A great deal has been happening around Australia on the "health and wellbeing" front. The Swag published an article by Dr Michael Shanahan as a result of the work he and two other doctors, Michael Quinlan and Leon-ard Chan, have been doing with the priests of the Archdiocese of Perth and the Diocese of Bunbury.
In addition, fine work is being done on the same topic in the Archdioceses of Brisbane and Melbourne partic-ularly by their health-care teams. These teams include among their number women with a nursing and/or social welfare background who are actively engaged in caring for clergy. The exceptional work done by Cherlye Davies and Bernadette Mills (and other mem-bers of their teams) is referred to in this Bulletin. Both women spoke to the Diocesan Directors of Clergy Life and Ministry at their national gathering this year, which had as its focus the Presbyterate. Similar initiatives in relation to clergy care have been--or are being--devel-oped in other dioceses.
There is no substitute for our care for one another. Pastores dabo vobis makes this clear, as you will see from extracts of no. 74 printed on the back. What is also clear are the great blessings that result from well resourced dioceses sharing their gifts with other dio-ceses. The sharing in health care is a great example.
With personal best wishes,
THE NATIONAL MEETING OF DIOCESAN DIRECTORS
The Changing Face of the Presbyterate
The national meeting of Diocesan Director of Clergy Life and Ministry this year was devoted to examining the Presbyterate. Entitled The Changing Face of the Presbyterate, the Directors provided photographs of their presbyterates, explaining why they had chosen them. Many displayed two or three photos spanning the past fifty, even eighty years, using them to identify clearly the changing face of their presbyterates.
Probing the topic at a deeper level, Archbishop Mark Coleridge ‘unpacked' Section 74 of Pastores dabo vobis. His analysis prompted wide-ranging discussion on our obligations to each other and to the Church.
The focus then shifted to the "Health and Well-being Issues for Catholic Priests".
Cheryle Davies, one of two guest speakers on this topic spoke of her work as Clergy Healthcare Coordinator working with the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Cheryle is a registered nurse with a background in community nursing and health promotion.
The second guest speaker was Bernadette Mills who spoke of her rewarding work with the ‘retired' men in Melbourne. Bernadette works with the Home Support Program for the Melbourne Archdiocese and is a registered nurse with extensive experience in aged care nursing and administration.
The nurses both enjoy their work immensely and express a desire to work toward excellence in care and services. There are a number of clergy care services across a variety of dioceses. The nurses are increasing their communication and the sharing of information to continue to improve services nationally.
The blessings of reasonable health, good genes, age, and the need or desire to step down from the responsibility of running a parish, call not only for our personal support for those ‘retired' (by visits etc), but also for such specialised care which can be offered only at diocesan level. These are the topics the nurses presented to the gathering of Directors:
ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE AND MELBOURNE
"Health & Wellbeing Issues for Priests"
Speaking in detail of the importance of proactive preventative health care, Cheryle Davies identified those priests at high risk health-wise; the nature and impact of stress and burnout in the lives of priests, indicating the signs of both. She also addressed the added pressures priests find themselves facing, the importance of making some significant ‘life-style' changes, and the impact of doing so; planning strategies for good health, along with how to respond to change, and how to plan for the future.
Bernadette Mills provided details of the day-to-day work involved in looking after some 80 or more retired priests in Melbourne . She spoke of practical issues often overlooked, or not attended to well, by priests themselves. These included data relating to their med-ications; keeping on file a detailed record of one's health, medical interventions, and treatments; details of one's doctor; having an up-to-date will, power of attorney; the role and benefits agencies such as aged care assessment teams, local government agencies and other services, community aged care packages, and the like.
Cheryle Davies has a list of ten things she has learned about priests:
1. They care about others: ‘Fr X needs you, I don't'
2. Maintaining a sense of Individuality is important.
3. Being Independent is a high priority.
4. Generosity of Spirit is more easily expressed to others than to self.
5. It can be challenging as capable/competent leaders, to adjust when personal circumstances are out of control (eg. Illness)
6. As public figures, maintaining privacy is important and it can be hard to ‘let down the guard' and trust others.
7. Conscientious. ‘I will have my heart attack on my day off, or at least after Mass. '
8. Resourceful and self sufficient. Priests tend to find ways around any obstacle or challenge...it comes back to independence.
9. Not good at asking for help. It can be hard for the ‘carer' to allow others to care for them.
10. Priests are a very interesting and diverse group of people.
STRESS & HEALTH CARE
Cheryle Davies speaking to clergy....
As a priest, you work in the area broadly known as human services (e.g. police, ambulance officers, health professionals, social workers etc). Studies identify that those working in human services have an increased risk to their health and wellbeing due to high stress levels and burnout.
There are many reasons why clergy are at particularly high risk, a few of these are:
• High expectations on self and varied/unrealistic expectations by others
• Lack of clearly defined boundaries - tasks are never done
• Hard to measure achievements
• Lack of separation between role, relationships, living environment
• High time demands
• Multiplicity of roles/responsibilities
• Increasing administrative work - offers little reward
• ‘Shift work' and being ‘on call' can increase isolation
To list some simple guidelines may seem trite if you are currently feeling stressed and frustrated. A big part of the picture is to recognize that it is normal to struggle with these sorts of issues in ministry, and thinking through some positive approaches is a good way forward. Perhaps the first thing to do is to think through how you can say ‘No' when you need to. Work out your personal and ministry priorities so you can measure requests against a bigger view than the immediate demand. Start with self care so that you can feel back in control of the decisions you are making.
There is a slogan ‘A well dusted life is the sign of a wasted life': it is a good reminder about priorities. Perhaps you can think of an equally apt slogan for priests!
-- Cheryle Davies (Archdiocese of Brisbane )
Pastores Dabo Vobis, no 74 (extracts)
"The priest should grow in awareness of the deep communion uniting him to the People of God: He is not only ‘in the forefront of' the Church, but above all ‘in' the Church. He is a brother among brothers ...
The sacrament of holy orders is conferred upon priests
- as individuals, but
- they are inserted into the communion of the presbyterate united with the bishop ...
This sacramental origin is reflected and continued in the sphere of priestly ministry:
- from mysterium (mystery) to ministerium (ministry)
Unity among the priests with the bishop and among themselves
- is not something added from the outside to the nature of their service,
- but expresses its essence inasmuch as it is the care of Christ the priest for the people gathered in the unity of the Blessed Trinity.
The presbyterate thus appears as
- a true family,
- as a fraternity
- whose ties do not arise from flesh and blood but from the grace of holy orders.
This grace takes up and elevates
- the human and psychological bonds of affection and friendship,
- as well as the spiritual bonds which exist between priests.
- grows ever greater and
- finds expression in the most varied forms of mutual assistance,
- spiritual and material as well.
"Priestly fraternity excludes no one.
- it can and should have its preferences:
- those who have greatest need of help and encouragement.
This fraternity takes special care of
- young priests,
- maintains a kind and fraternal dialogue with those of the middle age and
- older age groups,
- with those who for whatever reasons are facing difficulties,
- those priests who have given up this way of life or are not following it at this time, this brotherhood does not forget them but follows them all the more with fraternal solicitude."
Religious clergy who live and work in a particular church also belong to the one presbyterate, albeit under a different title. Their presence is a source of
- enrichment for all priests.
- The different particular charisms which they live ... help to encourage and promote ongoing priestly formation.
For their part, religious will be concern to ensure
- a sprit of true ecclesial communion,
- a genuine participation in the progress of the diocese and the pastoral decisions of the bishop,
- generosity putting their own charism at the service of building up everyone in charity..
-- Pope John Paul II