New Catholic Priest

Probably by posting the link with the photo and the headline, I suppose I risk the ire of the SCGS crowd. A friend forwarded me this article today and asked my input.

Lots of internet Catholics seem to be all in a fuss about it. As the lady herself says:

I personally have not received hate mail, although there are plenty of blogs that I have found online that like to slander my name when they get hold of information about my ordination and ministry. It’s unfortunate and sad.

I’m not quite sure why so many bloggers are all atwitter about this. That people define themselves as Catholic without the “Roman” is nothing new. Maybe the Newsweek coverage bothers them.

These are my thoughts on the matter:

I think twenty-five is rather young for ordination. Personally, I think even Roman Catholics should be about forty before they’re ordained. Spend fifteen years in lay ecclesial ministry, or teaching, or in the missions, or in a monastery. Get experience and grow up. Not that all forty-year-olds have their spit together, but by then, most of the emotionally immature have either grown up or weeded themselves out of ministry.

I wouldn’t choose to go the route of these Catholics, and I say that knowing many people who have done so. Unity is still a vital aspect of the Church for me, even when I see unity endangered by some of the very shepherds who claim to cling so closely to tradition.

Non-Roman Catholic Christians make choices along these lines all the time. For some, it’s a mark of stubbornness. For others, courage. For most, they’ve never broken from Rome because there was never any unity to begin with. If a friend were to speak to me of going off to become non-Roman, I would explore the reasons and try to convince them I wanted a larger church, and we were stronger with them than without them. But by the time people take the step of ordination, they’re pretty much set in their ways.

It’s possible to be disappointed in a broken Christianity yet refrain from thoughtless or hackneyed criticism.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to New Catholic Priest

  1. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    Due to the time difference between USA and Japan, I read this on Sept.14th, the 32nd Anniversary of own ordination. I was ordained three months shy of my 25th birthday.
    Prescinding from the main topic, on which many more than myself will question the wisdom of such a move, a move that opens a wound in the unity and integrity of the Church, your comments on 40 as the optimum age for ordination drew my attention. Sadly I have also known and worked with more than my share of spiritually and emotionally immature priests over the years to question whether they were ordained too early.
    That said, time and experience can be of great benefit in growth and maturation.
    I clashed frequently with the pastor of the first parish I was assigned to. Ordained ten years apart, he was a native Japanese formed here in Japan, whereas I was formed in Ireland, we had been exposed to two very different images, visions of the Church, not to mention that all his theological studies had been done through the medium of Latin, whereas mine had been in English. As much by happy circumstance as purposeful planning most of my work in the parish was with the young people. Catechetical programs for those still at school, Scripture and Faith sharing groups with college students and those finding their way in the world of work. Since I was still struggling with Japanese, with help from them I read the same books as they did, listened to the same music, and by accompanying them, as they prepared for and started married life, entered seminary programs and convents, learnt from them how I could be of help to them. However this reflected in the eyes of the Pastor, in my third year there, as he became deeply involved in diocesan matters, I found myself looking after the day to day affairs of the parish. Three more years in another parish saw me “promoted” to Pastor with my own parish at the age of 34. As one of my younger colleagues says – “Such is life on the missions.”
    Cross-cultural mission has its own unique set of demands, learning the language, adapting to a new cultural setting, very different to the one you were borne and raised in. Time and a flexibility, openness of mind and heart which is more often seen in the young, are essential. The younger you start to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, the better the prospects of making a go of it. Here in Japan we reckon it is best to start language work before 30, so we welcome seminarians from other countries who come here to complete their formation. Also as a general principle we are reluctant to accept anybody over 30 into our formation program. Nothing can guarantee results. While some will make significant contributions wherever they go, we will also carry our share of “walking wounded”. Some, after years of being a source of anxiety both for those who work with them, and even more for their superiors, will bring forth fruith as they move into the latter half of their lives.
    I still remember the words of the head of the Parish Council in my second parish. On the day I was welcomed by the community he told the parishioners, “It is our responsibility to see that Fr. Kelleher grows in his priesthood, that whatever potential he has doesn’t die on the branch.” I can name nearly a dozen men in that parish, some of whom sadly have since passed on, who helped me grow as a priest, and I remember them with thanks, for advice given, experiences shared, and I admit possibly perhaps too many glasses of “sake”, drunk in the late hours of the night, the early hours of the morning. Needless to say, you need to start young to keep up with the hardened “sake” drinkers encountered in rural Japan.
    I’ve since stopped drinking, but will also admit to the paradoxical fact that the hours spent drinking with the men of parishes I worked in saw me grow in my ministry as a priest and missionary here in Japan.
    How much of what I have written applies to the USA context I shall leave to you and your readers to decide.

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