The Sheep Speak to the Shepherds

by on May 5, 2015

This week the transitional deacons are on retreat before priestly ordinations. Please pray for them as they prepare for their journey from the diaconate to the presbyterate. Last week, some faculty and staff were invited to a class on Pastoral Administration and Leadership for a special session called “The Sheep Speak to the Shepherds.”  The teachers of that class wanted the future priests to hear from their future flock.

Sr. Judith Anne Haase, OP spoke first. She stressed the absolute importance of prayer, telling the story of Cardinal Bernardin who once shared with the seminarians that finding time for an hour of prayer was very hard for him. He told them that he had to adjust his schedule to fit it in, waking up every day at 4 a.m. for an hour of prayer. Sr. Judith said that a priest must do likewise in order to properly care for the sheep ­– you cannot give what you do not have.

Dr. Melanie Barrett, a professor of moral theology at the seminary, defined and distinguished “Servant Leadership” and “Spiritual Leadership.” She told the seminarians not to quickly make assumptions on where their parishioners are at spiritually. Appearances are often deceiving. On “Servant Leadership,” the intellectual virtue of prudence is important in finding the golden mean between two extremes. She told the seminarians not to be tyrants or doormats. Also, she talked about being firm in one’s decisions. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37). In conclusion, Dr. Barrett mentioned a priest she admires. He truly focuses on the person he is talking to, making you feel as if you are his only concern. Such attention on the needs of the flock is absolutely necessary for shepherds.

Linda Couri, the director of the Institute for Lay Formation, talked about the example of Pope Francis and his warnings against clericalism. Rather than intentionally identifying themselves with the sheep, the shepherds should realize that they already are the sheep, but sheep called to be shepherds.

Dorothy Renton, who also works at the Institute for Lay Formation, gave witness to a priest who particularly cares for her family. Like Dr. Barrett’s example, this priest is always present to his flock, tending to their particular needs. Each participant stressed the need for a priest to be present to his flock. But what is the presence a priest is called to embody? And if there is a difference from other modes of presence, how is it different and why? While the answer to these questions may be obvious, I think it is good to ask them so as to put into relief the particularity of the priest.

Surprisingly, I was invited to talk. I stressed the following practices: kneeling prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, saying Mass reverently, preaching and meditating on the Scriptures, making the Sacrament of Penance available even if no one comes, devotion to Mary, acquainting the flock with the spirited writings of the Church Fathers, regularly reading Augustine’s Confessions, explaining the beauty of deification and suffering, and detachment from technology and other distractions.

Since we were only given five minutes we could not say everything. Do you have any advice for our future priests? Please write below and we can notify our seminarians.