The spiritual connection between priest and bishop – Catholic Star Herald

During the Rite of Ordination of Priests, the bishop asks the candidates a number of questions about their resolve to carry out the office of Presbyter (Priest) in accord with the mind of Christ and the Church, under the direction of the Bishop. Notice the resolve or the commitment of a priest is three pronged 1) it reflects Christ, 2) is in union with the Church, and 3) is directed by the bishop. For the final question each candidate kneels before the bishop and places his joined hands between those of the bishop who asks, Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?

Both gestures, kneeling and the hands of the candidate in the hands of the bishop, signal a connection between the priest and the bishop whomever the bishop is (my successors) throughout all the years of the priests ministry. It is a spiritual connection based on respect and obedience. Respect means the priest recognizes the bishop as a father in Christ; obedience means the priest cooperates with and assists in the ministry of the bishop. Respect and obedience are priestly virtues which enable the bishop to do his ministry of oversight of the diocese and enable the priest to share in the ministry of the bishop.

Having recently transferred 18 pastors and five associate pastors, the issue of respect and obedience is very much on my mind. A transfer is never easy for a priest. I vividly remember my own transfers and the personal emotions that surfaced as I changed each assignment at the request of my bishop. At the same time, the transfer can be challenging, even upsetting for the faithful who lose their priest and have to get accustomed to a new priest.

Some people express their disappointment about a priests transfer by writing to the bishop words of praise about the ministry of the priest. I enjoy those letters. It is always good news to receive a favorable report from the faithful explaining how the ministry of a particular priest positively impacted their lives.

Then there are a very few who write and tell me that I cannot do what I did; that I must reverse the decision; that I am insensitive to the culture of that parish; that they will leave the church if Father X is transferred and never again contribute to the church. I appreciate their passion, but those sentiments indicate that they do not understand the relationship of a bishop in the life and ministry of a priest, nor do they understand the role of the bishop as the overseer of the entire diocesan church, not just one parish. Further, they have no knowledge of the commandment to support the church.

In the case of the transfer of a pastor there is a process that is carefully followed in our diocese; this process is guided by the universal law of the church. The particular law of the church in the United States since 1984 grants a pastor a six-year term of office which is renewable once for six more years. Our priests in Camden are notified when a pastorate is opened and if interested in a particular parish he writes to the Vicar for Clergy stating his reasons to be considered for that pastorate. His letter is shared with the members of the Priest Personnel Board who review the reasons proposed by the priest. The majority of the priests on the board are elected by their peers. I attend those meetings and listen to the reports that are presented about the parish and the opinions of the Board members about the appointment of a priest to a particular parish. Then, I prayerfully consider the deliberations of the Personnel Board, along with my own knowledge of the parish and the priest in order to arrive at an informed decision.

As the bishop, I have a responsibility to consider the needs of the entire diocese, not just one particular parish, and to evaluate the competency of a particular priest for that particular parish. I depend on the counsel of my brother priests on the Priest Personnel Board. After I have reached my decision, I speak individually, face to face, with each priest to propose the transfer and the reasons for it. If they wish, I give them time to pray about my request.

I am so pleased to report that our priests were generous in their positive responses despite the personal hardships the transfer involved for them. Thats where the respect and obedience come into play. Your Camden priests, my brothers, demonstrated profound respect and obedience first, to me their bishop, but also to the people of God, to you, by accepting the transfer in obedience to the needs of the diocese. I am so very proud of them, as you should be.

I have previously written but again repeat that the BIGGEST and most URGENT problem facing the Diocese of Camden is the need for more priests to staff our parishes. Please, HELP. If you know a young man in your parish, or in your family, whom you think would be a fine priest, mention it to him. Contemporary culture makes it extremely difficult for young men to hear and respond to the call of God to the priesthood. There are too many noisy distractions out there which block a young man from hearing the call of the Lord to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Sometimes a word of encouragement from another gets him to seriously consider the priesthood. Pray also for an increase of vocations to the diocesan priesthood and for our seminarians.

Tell your parish priest of your gratitude for his ministry and for his life. Priests need to hear from the faithful your appreciation of them. There is a lot of negativity against priests out there which affects priests who can use and benefit from your words of affirmation. Pray for priests and, while you are at it, for your bishop too.

Finally, on July 15th, seven priests retired from active ministry. I call these men, veterans of the vineyard. They have faithfully run the course, kept the faith and served the church for many years in variety of ministries. Hats off to these brothers of mine, your priests who deserve to retire. They are still priests and they maintain a certain level of ministry. With gratitude from me, their bishop, and from the thousands and thousands of women and men who over the years have benefitted from their priestly service, well done, good and faithful servants.

Father Mark R. Cavagnaro

Msgr. Michael J. Doyle

Father John A. OLeary

Father Michael P. Orsi

Father Joseph A. Perreault

Father Michael P. Rush

Father John J. Vignone

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The spiritual connection between priest and bishop - Catholic Star Herald

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