I came across an article this past week on why ministers leave ministry in protestant churches. The article took a look at hundreds of preachers and pastors and what they had to say and the reasons they left their churches and ministry. There was no information on Catholic priests in this survey, we do leave the active ministry; we are not immune to the stresses of ministry. BUT there is a difference, and I would like to address several differences.
In many of the non-Catholic faiths, a board of directors, or deacons; hire and fire their ministers. This puts a tremendous about of stress on the minister. Ministers in those denominations are contracted on their ability to perform, fill the pews and the bank account. The large mega “churches” have huge operating expenses as they have all types of paid personnel performing all types of ministry. If the people are not happy with the message or the leadership of the pastor, he/she can be fired. The Sunday service is built around the pastor’s sermon and many times great music; and today, many use the latest technology for sound and sight.
Within the Catholic Faith and Sunday Mass is found a liturgy that traces its beginning back to the Last Supper. It is not built upon music, technology or the latest trends. It is the participating in a “living memorial”, which puts us at the table of the Last Supper with Christ Himself. In the fast paced, technological age in which we live, so many people want an instant spirituality or an entertainment religion. The Lord moves slowly in our lives, and it takes a lifetime to build that solid spiritual relationship. The latest trends are actually that: trends, and they will be gone tomorrow. The Liturgy of the Mass may be boring at times to people, but so is going to work every day for 40 years, or school every morning for students. Do we simply allow our young people to stay at home and not go to school because they find it boring, or do adults simply quit their jobs and lay around the house?
In the article 90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours a week, and 70% of pastors felt underpaid. Up to 90% of pastors felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demand and up to 90% said that ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like. Many pastors, up to 70% constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living, of caring for their families.
The statistics speak for themselves, working in ministry whether as a Catholic priest, or a non-Catholic pastor can be challenging. These statistics came from the Schaeffer Institute. Some of the reasons given could be said of Catholic priests, but we are to be men of prayer and leaders of worship within the sacramental life of the church.
Our Catholic Faith is built upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition that can be traced back to the founding Apostles. If we get bored with the Mass, perhaps we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “what we are putting into the celebration?” Are we reading the scripture readings before mass? Do we come racing into the liturgy at the last moment or even after mass has begun, or go racing out to something else before the mass is concluded? Do we look to be entertained rather than pray and worship God??? The Catholic Mass embraces the mystery of our loving God who sent His Son to die for us. It celebrates that love in an ancient ritual with music, scripture, incense, vestments, liturgical movement that is counter cultural in our society today.