Give opportunity for all to serve
Bernie de Rozario in her letter “Pray for our priests daily as they remain focused on God” (Herald July 19) expressed her frustrations of what is going in her parish. She seems to very disturbed that some parishioners ‘monopolize’ the priests so much so that others have no access to him. In fact the problems she highlighted are not unique to her parish but one that is common in many others as well.
In most organizations the leader is often surrounded by group of loyalists who will do anything for the leader. They would take great pains to please the leader often for their own benefits. They have a lot of influence on the leader and the way he behaves and deals with others under his care. Over time the leader if not careful becomes blinded by these loyalists and that is where the whole trouble starts.
The situation in most of our parishes is no different where the priest is ‘monopolized’ by a few to the extent an inexperienced priest succumbs to their influence. Both the priest and the laity are equally responsible for the problems that exist in most parishes that finally lead to a tremendous strain in the clergy-laity relationship.
Many of our younger priests lack conviction in their vocation and therefore are not focused in serving God through His people and get distracted along the way. In a recent homily, the bishop of Penang, Rt Rev Anthony Selvanayagam, lamented at the poor caliber of those entering the seminary these days. How can we expect the seminary to churn out good, committed and holy priests when in the first place they lack the basic human values to start with, he asked?
Often the young priests lack the maturity and wisdom that comes only with experience, to handle the various complex problems posed by the people who seek their guidance. As a result they are easily carried away by the mesmerizing words and actions of those who get into their inner circle and their judgments become biased, at times even unfair. Handling humans is formidable task that need many years of painstaking experience to accomplish successfully. Every person is unique and the more people we have the greater and more complicated the task becomes.
A lesson that I have learnt through my experiences in life is "Not all who rush to the fore are good and not all who stay away are bad either". To be a good leader one must acquire the wisdom to see through the sweet words and actions of those who surround him and the so- called rebellious behavior of those who stay away.
The lay people are also largely to blame for the many problems that plague our parishes today. The uncompromising and selfish attitude of some in wanting to seek power and glory for themselves and their family puts even the most experienced the priest in a very difficult situation. They think they love God by becoming front-line worshipers but do little to show they love their neighbor as they are always at loggerheads with them. They are not very different from our national politicians of whom we all are very critical.
The vast majority of the laity do not want to get involved in the politics of the church and as the silent majority they prefer go on with their daily chores in peace accepting, often grudgingly, whatever decisions made by those in power. It is unfortunate the invaluable talents among this huge group of parishioners remain largely untapped due to the unhealthy politicking that goes on at the top around the parish priest.
To overcome these problems it would be wise for the leadership of the various organizations to be elected and their terms in office limited, so that more parishioners are given the chance to contribute their knowledge, talents and skills for the overall physical and spiritual development of the parish. The priest must reach out to majority who stay away and not allow him to be influenced by the few surrounding him.
There is a large pool of gifted and talented people in all fields within our community, why just allow a handful to monopolize and dominate the running of the parish and the parish priest, causing a great deal of unhappiness among the majority?