“A day in the life of a priest”

The natives of the parish share their priestly experiences with a group of women

LINCOLN (SNR) – St. Teresa of Lincoln’s Parish Women’s Events Committee hosted “A Day in the Life of a Priest” on Aug. 13.

Three former parish members who became priests for the Diocese of Lincoln presented insight into the daily lives of priests and answered questions from those in attendance.

The native sons of the parish represented a variety of priestly experiences.

Msgr. Paul Witt was ordained in 1971. Now retired, he served in numerous parishes throughout his priesthood, including seven years at St.

Patrick Parish in Lincoln, and 20 years as pastor at St. Mary Parish in downtown Lincoln.

Despite his own decades of service and his own “self-taught” nature, he himself was impressed by all the experiences of his brother priests.

“There’s a lot going on,” he said.

Fr Lothar Gilde was ordained in 2006 and is currently pastoring St Patrick’s Parish in Imperial. He explained that “typical” days in the priesthood are anything but. A pastor responds to the varied needs of his people, he explained. Some are expected: CCD and RCIA courses and visits to nursing homes, preparing couples for marriage, preparing parents for the baptism of their child, helping family members choose books for the funeral of a loved one. But some are suitable for special requests. This summer, for example, several parishioners celebrated Quinceañera on their 15th birthday, an occasion that marks a girl’s transition to womanhood. Father Gilde brought the young girls to classes to reflect on their faith and the importance of being a woman of faith within the family of God.

Sometimes a pastor finds a family in which a child has “fallen through the cracks” and missed Confirmation since different dioceses confer the sacrament at different ages. In these cases, a pastor may meet with families individually to prepare them for the sacrament.

But a pastor also performs many unexpected tasks, he said.

“I’ve spent many hours this summer tending to flowers – and especially pulling weeds – around the church grounds,” he said. “I feel and hope that a well-maintained area with the added beauty of flowers will “plant” ideas of wonder about the Catholic faith in the minds of those who walk or drive by.”

Other periodic meetings and activities “happen to continually fill the calendar,” he said. They included tasks like writing an article about the faith for the local newspaper, meeting with the local ministers association, and meeting with parish groups like the Altar Society, the Knights of Columbus, and the parish council, as well as meetings of deanery and diocesan with priests.

Father Christopher Stoley was ordained in 2015 and is currently pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Crete and administrative director of St. James’s School.

Father Stoley agreed with Father Gilde: “As priests, we don’t have typical days”.

He described the schedule he tries to keep, with the liturgy of the hours, school assignments, office hours and meetings, all scheduled, day to day. He said he tries to train every day and his list includes having dinner “at some point, maybe”, depending on how many items are on his agenda.

When asked what surprised him about the priesthood, Fr. Stoley said his biggest surprise was how poorly catechized many people were.

“Most of my homilies are catechetical in nature,” he said, “because I have discovered that many of my fellow citizens simply do not know their faith – or they knew it and lost it. over the years. It really influences my preaching. It’s not something against people, but if you don’t know much about faith, you can’t really know how to follow Jesus too well. A good catechesis can really add respect to the Mass and strengthen our friendship with God.

In Father Stoley’s case, another complication is that about 80% of his parish is Hispanic. Stoley celebrates masses in English and Spanish, but about half of his Hispanic parishioners come from areas of Guatemala where they don’t even speak Spanish, but rather a Mayan dialect.

So some people “come to church to pray, because they’re Catholic,” he said, “but on Sundays they go to one of the evangelical churches in town because the pastors speak their dialect. The language barrier can totally disrupt catechism efforts, and there’s a huge chunk of the population that falls through the cracks because I don’t know any of the 30 dialects they might speak.

When asked how parishioners could help, all the priests said praying for them was the most important thing.

“But maybe also check your priests and try to understand them,” Fr. Stoley remarked. He said it shouldn’t be a formal thing.

“Just a pop-in and say, ‘hey, I just wanted to see how you’re doing.’

“Most people assume our job is to say mass and then relax the rest of the day and be available,” he explained. “They don’t see the daily life of the ministry and it can be exhausting. But knowing that there are people in the parish who care is encouraging.

Margy Stoley of St. Teresa Parish – and Father Stoley’s mother – organized the event.

“It was wonderful hearing about their days and spending time and laughing with them,” she said. “It was an enriching experience for all involved. We encourage other parishes to set up a similar event to learn more about the life of priests.

Msgr. Witt agreed. He commended the St. Teresa Parish Women’s Events Committee for the idea and said he recommends other parishes organize similar events and “just listen” to what their priests have to say. He added that young people would benefit from hearing what led a priest to respond to the call to priesthood, to “what was that spark?”

Barry F. Howard