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The Joy of Priesthood
by Fr. Stephen J. Rossetti
Ave Maria Press, September 2005
paperback, 221 pages
Supporting and Caring for Our
Parish Priests during the Holiday Season
Interview with Fr. Stephen J. Rossetti
By Lisa M. Hendey
As a child, my family had a close personal relationship with the pastor of
our parish. He frequently dined in our home and was a visitor at holiday
celebrations. In today’s age of priest shortages, I found myself wondering
about what might be a way to support and encourage my current pastor during
the holiday season.
For some answers and advice, I turned to Fr. Stephen J. Rossetti, director
of the Saint Luke Institute and author of the new book
The Joy of Priesthood
(Ave Maria Press, September 2005, paperback, 221 pages). Thanks to his work
counseling priests, Fr. Rossetti was able to share an interesting and
informed perspective on how Catholic families can be of support and
encouragement to their parish priests during the holiday season. I’m pleased
to share my conversation with Fr. Rossetti and invite your family to join
mine in special prayers this holiday season for all of the priests who work
so diligently on our behalf.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your own background
A: People often ask priests why they became priests...my answer is simple
but I believe it: God called me. In the end, that's the nub of it. John Paul
the Great once said that God does not say 'yes' one minute and then 'no' the
next. I believe God's call to me to be a priest is enduring and I pray for
his strength to be a good one. I am grateful for this vocation, it has been
a source of great grace for me, and I hope, for others.
I often marvel at how much energy people direct toward priests. If I walk in
a public place, some people will smile and say something kind; others will
be negative and project quite a bit of hostility. The figure of the Catholic
priest is still a powerful symbol in our society, for some very positive,
negative for others...but rarely neutral.
Q: Please describe your book and its primary
A: The book was originally meant as a kind of personal sharing between
myself and my brother priests. I have worked with them personally and in
their most vulnerable moments for 16 years, and so I wanted to share with
them some things from my own heart and what I have learned from them...I am
grateful to them for being a part of my life. However, I have been a bit
surprised that people who are not priests have found the book helpful and
interesting. Actually, I have been surprised by the overwhelmingly positive
response to the book in general. It is encouraging to me.
Q: How can Catholic families be of support and
encouragement to their parish priests during the holiday season?
A: The people in the parishes might not realize it but they are really the
'family' of the priest. As a celibate individual dedicated to serving them,
he looks to the people not only as one who builds community, but also as one
who strongly needs this community as well. Together they work and pray.
People are very generous to their priests which we especially see around
Christmas time. Priests' offices are filled with Christmas cards and their
kitchens are loaded with home baked cookies. While this is not always good
for the waistline, it is important for the heart. My recommendation to the
parishioners? Keep sending those cards and cookies! We appreciate your love
more than you know.
Q: In today's busy age with the shortage of
priests, is it realistic for Catholics to desire and maintain a familial
type of friendship with their parish priests? How can families "bond" with
or build a friendship with their Pastors?
A: This is a tough issue and one that I am very concerned about. I fear that
our priests will have so many parishioners with several parishes that he
won't have a chance to get to know them. Certainly he won't be able to go to
all the social functions that the pastors used to go to, but there must be a
personal connection between the priests and the people. This is important
for both. Frankly, I don't know what to say about this. I guess I look to
our priests and people to adjust to the new demands and come up with some
new models and new ways of making it work.
Q: What would be an appropriate and appreciated
Christmas gift for a parish priest?
A: Your best Christmas gift to a priest is to make a good confession, attend
Mass regularly and bring your children. Nothing makes a priest happier than
to see the faith and support of the people. When people are practicing their
faith, it strengthens a priest's faith. I always find it edifying, for
example, to give out communion during the Mass. I see the faith in the
people's faces and it is encouraging to me.
Q: What types of difficulties do our priests face
at this time of the year, and how can we support them?
A: Christmas is a very busy time of the year for priests, as is Easter. I
know it is a very busy time for all the people too. Sometimes I think we
don't need to do more, but we need to do less, that is, we need to focus on
a few important things and then relax a bit more and spend time with our
If you are able to volunteer to help with a few Church things, perhaps your
pastor needs a few extra helping hands. Most parishes do some projects for
the poor and needy during Christmas or provide Christmas gifts to children -
these are very important. Perhaps one of the best things you can do is to
contact a Catholic friend who hasn't been to Church in a while and invite
them to come to Christmas Mass with you. It could be the beginning of their
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments
you'd like to add on this topic?
A: It is heartening to me that, in these difficult days, there are so many
faith-filled people who love and support their priests. I have found that
this is really one of the major pieces of 'glue' that holds the Church
together, the bond between priest and people. Keep praying for your priests
and loving them. They are not perfect, thank God...God decided to ordain
human beings like you and me, He did not ordain angels. Priests understand
and have compassion for our weaknesses because they too are frail human
beings. It is to save us all, priests and people, that God sent his Son.
For more information on
The Joy of Priesthood
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites,
http://www.christiancoloring.com and an avid reader of Catholic
literature. Visit her at
http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.
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