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The Love of Priests and Pastors for Their Communities

Listening to both the Gospel of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist and the accompanying Homily by Fr Jason Middleton today, highlighted for me once again the love of the priests and pastors for their flocks. A loving relationship, which unfortunately is often misunderstood, or deliberately ignored, or actively fought against, in today’s world!

Far too much negative publicity and media attention has been given to the relatively few priests throughout the world who have been involved in horrific acts with minors. It is quite understandable why this negativity has happened, and it is not to be ignored, but learned from, particularly due to the high standing of priests within society. Now is the time to place this in its true perspective – very few priests statistically have been involved – in fact the statistic is less for priests than for men in general in society (<1% compared to 2.5% is the accepted research statistic these days).

Where have been the positive stories that actually abound? The great, great majority of priests have lovingly gone about their pastoral, sacramental and administrative lives in ways which truly benefit their communities and society. This is often in difficult and sometimes hostile circumstances. Not only do these good, innocent men have to bear the brunt of an ill-informed or unforgiving public regarding abuse, they are often accused or considered guilty by association – purely because they are priests.

Very few will deny that justice of the guilty must be seen to be done. Society must now accept that this is being done - because it is – from the top (Pope), down!

Society needs now to move onwards to allow the other innocent men to be themselves, free of all associated guilt, etc.

Yes, we all know of various priests and pastors who don’t fit our personal expectations of their vocation, but out of love for these dedicated people we need to allow for differences and meet them where they are – we may even be able to gently change them in ways which suit both them and ourselves, if this is needed.

I have been deeply involved with the Catholic Church and Catholic schools for my whole life – over 50 years. My wife and I are both Catholic teachers. We have three children, two of whom also teach in Catholic schools. In my time I have only known of priests and pastors who want to do what is best for their communities. I am aware that there will be some who would say that I am biased, yet to live within the Church for so long allows for a more complete understanding of the true situation. This is no rose-tinted appreciation – it is honestly real.

As for any person, priests and pastors are no different when it comes to highs and lows. There have been times when a priest’s or pastor's behaviour or personality may not have suited me, when they may have seemed negative or aggressive, yet I now realise with age and experience that an understanding and acceptance is very much needed.

A priest is a person and priesthood is his / her vocation. Likewise for pastors - firstly they are people and secondly their vocation is one of being are pastor.

As an example, Fr Peter Dillon, my PP and Dean of the local Deanery, along with Fr Jason Middleton, Associate Pastor, of my parish, the Southport Catholic Parish on the Gold Coast, Australia, are mighty men who lovingly give their lives to God and God’s people. Fr Peter is my age and Fr Jason was ordained a couple of years ago. Quite a gap, yet both are very passionate about supporting their parishioners in whatever ways are required.

I believe that these men are quite typical of our priests today. They are heavily involved within their parish e.g. at both the primary and secondary Catholic schools in their parish, the aged care facilities in the parish grounds, the local public and private hospitals and other welfare agencies, visitations to parishioners, celebration of the sacraments in three different churches, etc. – quite a load for just two men – and I don’t even know the full extent of other activities and involvements of these generous men.

The love of priests and pastors for their communities is real! There is so much in this mainly selfless love from which we can all gain. Once we accept these people for who they are, firstly as people and secondly as priests / pastors, we will be appreciative of our similarities and differences and work together towards the betterment of our society as a whole.

This 'The Love of Priests for Their Communities' article was written by Bryan Foster, author of the 1God.world: One God for All, with copyright being retained by Great Developments Publishers.


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