Bishop Amos shares draft of wellness document with DPC
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Bishop Martin Amos will soon promulgate a new wellness document for priests in the Diocese of Davenport after updating the 2004 version with input from the Presbyteral Council, Diocesan Pastoral Council, Committee on Priestly Life and diocesan deaneries.
The document explores priestly life and ministry in four areas: intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral, which Bishop Amos reviewed with the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) July 9 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. DPC members represent parishes throughout the Davenport Diocese and serve the bishop as an advisory group that meets quarterly.
Other topics addressed at the meeting included the introduction of Father Tony Herold as the diocese’s vicar general, plans for establishing ministry to individuals with same-sex attraction, and diocesan administrative
changes. The DPC thanked retiring diocesan Development Director Sister Laura Goedken, OP, for her active role working with the DPC and member Sheri Benson for her thorough work as secretary. Her term has ended.
Bishop Amos told the DPC that when “A Wellness Document: The Health and Well-being of Priests in the Diocese of Davenport” is completed, it should be a living document that benefits the priests and their parishes.
The four areas of wellness:
Intellectual well-being, which aims to deepen the understanding of faith and emphasizes lifelong learning. Priests continue formation by attending the annual Chrism Mass and convocation, June Institute and Fall Clergy Overnighter. Newly ordained priests (up to five years in ministry) are to meet with a priest mentor. Diocesan sabbatical programs are available. Workshops for new priests are highly recommended.
Sr. Goedken observed that not every priest is strong in all four areas of wellness so they need resources for support. DPC member Clarence Darrow asked whether programs are available to help priests with homily development. Bishop Amos said that training for priests and deacons is much more intense than years ago, and rigorous homily preparation is part of that training. He suggested priests and lay people meet in a group setting to critique the homily. Fr. Herold said he would welcome feedback on his homilies.
Spiritual well-being, which aims for priests to become better missionary-disciples of Christ and more transparent sacramental signs of Christ, in whose person and name they act. Priests are to meet with a spiritual director on a regular basis. By canon law, every priest is to make an annual retreat. Celebration of the Eucharist, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and personal daily prayer are essential to priests’ spiritual life. Regular celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation is necessary. Priests are encouraged to belong to a support group. Fr. Herold belongs to such a group. “In our group we try to share a book together. We do evening prayer, have a social, and share life. We end with Mass. It’s very helpful. We try to meet every four to six weeks. There are quite a few (priest) groups out there. It’s a way to be accountable and to try to share life.”
Human well-being, which aims for the fuller development of a priest’s humanity for his well-being and to better communicate Jesus Christ to men and women today. Priests need to relate well to others. A yearly physical is strongly encouraged, along with regular exercise and good nutrition. Harmful addictions should be addressed in fraternal charity. Priests are allowed one continuous or interrupted month of vacation annually. This includes four weekends. For good mental health, priests should schedule a day away from the work environment each week. Funerals and emergencies are an exception. Personal living space away from the work environment is healthy. Simplicity in lifestyle should be a goal. Priests need to maintain healthy relationships with others, both male and female.
Darrow asked why the bishop doesn’t require priests to have an annual physical. The bishop will explore that possibility. Diocesan leaders would like famous Catholic chef Father Leo Patalinghug to visit the diocese to inspire priests on healthy eating. Fr. Herold also referred to a spiritual program called “The Light Way.” Some DPC members were surprised that priests are to receive a month’s vacation annually.
Pastoral well-being, which entails the ability of priests to serve their people well. Growth should continue in preaching and proclaiming the word, pastoral counseling, personnel management, effective leadership and other areas. A priest is permitted by canon law to celebrate the Eucharist once daily, except where the law permits. The exceptions: a shortage of priests and for pastoral need. Then the priest may celebrate Mass twice a day and even three times on Sundays and holy days of obligation. The ideal is to strive for one Mass daily Monday-Friday with a vigil on Saturday evening and two Sunday Masses. Masses for schools, nursing homes, weddings and funerals need to be considered as well. Masses of “convenience,” or where attendance is low, should be examined.
Sufficient time between Masses is important. “I don’t know how you can engage with people” when you’re running from one parish to the next, Bishop Amos said. But, changing Mass times is also one of the most difficult things to do. Capable laity should be discerned, called forth and trained for ministry especially in these six areas: church life, faith formation, family life, finance and administration, liturgy and social action.
The wellness document’s addendum on retired priests explores how to best determine their needs and what they can offer. Among the questions to reflect on: “How can I share the wisdom I have gained from my accumulated experiences?”
DPC member Nancy Roberson thanked Bishop Amos for sharing the document. “It lets our parishes be aware of the opportunities we can offer our priests.” Darrow suggested that parishioners might be encouraged, through The Catholic Messenger, for example, to offer to take the pastor out for lunch.