Priests and Midlife
Formation for priests in midlife was discussed by the Australian Catholic Commission for Continuing Education of Clergy (ACCCEC). Midlife is one of three stages, along with newly ordained and elderly priests, singled out in Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992) for special attention (PDV 76-77). As in all formation for priests after ordination an integral approach is proposed that looks to human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral growth and development (PDV 71).
What age are we talking about when we speak of midlife? Some say 35-45. Some feel it may be older for priests than for men generally. It is the time when we realise there is a generation behind us. Typical questions asked by people in midlife are:
- What have I done with my life?
- What am I giving to my family and friends?
- What do I truly want from life?
- Is that all there is?
- Am I normal?
For a priest, committed to celibacy, it is a time to find the man within oneself, to discover how one's celibacy can be generative, and to discover God acting personally within one's life. For a priest it can be a challenging time when a younger priest comes on the scene.
Each one must honestly face the experiences and questionings of midlife individually, and this can be richly supplemented by the dynamic of sharing with others and possibly personal mentoring or direction.
To address these questions individual priests were asked for brief papers. A one-day consultation was held to discuss these papers in the light of the needs of priests in different dioceses. The consultation consisted of Frs Maurie Cooney (Melbourne), Alan Curry (Wilcannia-Forbes), Hugh Delaney (Bathurst), Bill Kennedy (Canberra-Goulburn), Peter Neville (Sydney) and John Reilly sj (Chairman).
On their recommendations the following brief papers on Priests and Midlife and are offered by the Commission to the dioceses for use in whatever way they may consider helpful.
John Reilly sj, September 2000