by Moira Cullings
BALTIMORE — The work of a Catholic pastor is never done.
Running a parish requires a wide range of skills and a huge bank of knowledge that aren’t taught in the seminary.
And even those young priests who have the chance to spend years as an associate to a veteran pastor find themselves too soon out on their own, where the buck stops with them.
Fortunately, that’s where continuing formation programs come in.
“We want to do our best to help provide resources to our new pastors,” said Father Brian Schieber, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood and vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
“In the seminary, a lot of times we don’t receive training in human resources and administration,” he said.
“Those are topics that are taken up by the [continuing formation] workshops,” he added, “to help the priests understand how to manage a staff and how to be an effective leader and administrator of a parish.”
One such workshop that was designed for newer pastors was held last November at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.
“As a first-time pastor, it is helpful to learn about the various aspects of parish life that need to be addressed,” said Father Larry Bowers, pastor of St. Patrick parishes in Osage City and Scranton, who attended the training.
“I learned about many areas of shepherding a parish that require leadership and prioritizing skills, and how important it is to collaborate with staff and volunteers in ministry,” he said.
Father Bowers said the workshop gave him a fresh understanding of all that goes into managing a parish.
“I have new awareness of how the different aspects of a parish can and should be interrelated in order to help us mature as Christ’s disciples,” he said.
Father Nathan Haverland, pastor of St. Gregory in Marysville, also attended the training and found it enlightening.
“There’s a lot of things that are not taught in the seminary, for good reasons, because they’re just not needed at the time,” said Father Haverland. “So this is a good time for them to fill you in on those things that you need to know that you were never taught.”
Topics covered in the training included: pastoring more than one church; parish staffs and personnel management; the canonical role of the pastor; stewardship; parish finances; and stress in ministry.
The priests from the archdiocese who attended were appointed pastors last July, said Father Schieber, so they had each been in their role for about four months when the training took place.
“They’re starting to get their feet wet and maybe questions are beginning to surface about how they handle issues,” he said.
As St. Gregory prepares to break ground on a new church building in the coming months, receiving additional formation was particularly helpful for Father Haverland.
“I came back with a lot of great ideas of how to help my parish — and a lot more work to do,” he said with a laugh.
But for these priests, the extra work is worth it.
“We want to be good pastors and be good stewards of the resources and flock that have been entrusted to us,” said Father Haverland. “So I think it’s important that we’re the best shepherds we can be.”