How long has your parish priest, the pastor, been there?

Over at the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, I saw a story about a priest who died.  He had been parish priest, pastor as it is called in the USA, for 34 years.

The pastor of what became my home parish was in place for 33 years.  He accomplished some great things.

He had time to accomplish great things.

In many places assignments given to priests are term limited, sometimes 6 years, sometimes extended to 12.  Is that really long enough to get to know people, the place and undertake important objectives? Also, if the priests are constantly moving, could that undermine the role of the priest in the parish under his charge?

Having term limits can cut both ways.

In any event, may Mgr Thomas Fallon of St Francis of Assisi church, Handsworth in Birmingham rest in peace.

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66 Responses to How long has your parish priest, the pastor, been there?

  1. Phil_NL says:

    20 years, in my case – a lot longer than I’ve lived here.

    And it should even be longer, where it not for the fact that the parish will be merged soon. While our PP will likely stay on in the merged construction, it still feels like the bishop is uprooting a very well-running parish, which would have benefitted from another 20 years like this (father is young enough for that).

    On the other hand, I can well imagine the detructive forces that arise when a priest is a mismatch with his parish, and in such cases it’s probably for the best to move on after a couple of years. Nerves do get raw after a while. The big question is whether such transfers should be the execption or the rule.

  2. Brent S says:

    I agree that not much good progress can be achieved in such a short amount of time. However, a ton of negative progress can be made; even within a month of the priest’s arrival.

    It seems that the worse the liturgical abuses, the longer the priest is allowed to stay at the parish.

    I wish the entire body of priests of both the Archdiocese of Kansas City and the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph would have been required to attend your wonderful talk last night. Then, they may have opened their eyes and seen that what they’re doing may not be the best they could be offering the faithful and God.

    Additionally, I wish His Excellency, Archbishop Naumann would have been in attendance. His interest is not the liturgy and he makes that well known.

  3. Andy Milam says:

    Long live the memory of the pastor of your home parish, Fr. Z…May We Never Forget.

    The pastor of the parish I currently assist at has been there for almost 4 years. He is about 60 and it is his home parish. It is safe to assume that he will remain pastor there until he either a) retires; or b) dies. His health is very good and I don’t see him as the retiring type, so conceivably he could be pastor there for the next 25 years….

    I don’t know if he likes that thought (read: sarcasm), but I think that he is there for the long haul.

  4. Southern Baron says:

    My parish is also an Oratory and because of the peculiarities of that organization (a “priest-gentleman’s club” in the traditional sense, an old Jesuit friend of mine described them, fondly), the parish has a significant degree of continuity. At present they have been here just a few years, but they have a very long-term arrangement with the diocese. This is far more permanent than a parish run by a regular order: while a Jesuit parish might always have Jesuits, the individuals will change. But within the Oratory, each house is semi-independent, so the pastor will almost always come from within that particular community. So even if he has a set term, he won’t be leaving if he is replaced, but will take on some other duty within that community.

  5. Cath says:

    Brent,
    I agree that it would have been great for more priests to have been there last night. Several times I thought of priests I know who could have benefitted from hearing what Fr. Z. said.

    My priest has been at my parish for just a few months (I have been there for even less time). I pray he is there for many years. I know what switching from an orthodox priest to one who isn’t can do to the spiritual life of my children.

    When my oldest was in a small Catholic school, he had a nun who taught him in grades 1- 3. It was a great thing. After she retired, my daughter had a lay teacher for the same grades and it was awful.

    I am all for keeping priests in the same parish for a long time, if he is a holy priest. I have been told by many people that you shouldn’t switch parishes because of the priest. If I cannot go to Mass and be assured that what father is saying is correct Cathoic Teaching (not to mention how he offers Mass), how can I not go elsewhere?

  6. APX says:

    Back home my parish priest has been there for a little over 5 years, but I’ve heard he’s being transferred as soon as the parish moves into the new Cathedral. I imagine that it won’t be until the entire thing is completed in the Spring, so he’ll still be there for Christmas. Honestly, I was raised in this parish and in the 5 years he’s been there, he’s turned it into a social hall. I have never been to a parish that is so loud and so irreverent before, during and after Mass. We have a relatively new bishop, and with the new translation coming and the new Cathedral soon, so maybe we’ll keep with the new trend and get a new priest (and by new, I actually mean new. Our seminarians getting ordained seem to be really into the whole orthodox Catholic thing.).

    Where I am now, I’m not entirely certain how long the priest has been here, but it seems like he’s been there quite awhile, at least as far as FSSP placements go.

  7. MyBrokenFiat says:

    Wow – how lucky for some of you to have had pastors for so long. While growing up in Philly, our pastors would rotate every few years, but many who were there as deacons or residents would cycle back again as pastors later. So in a way, we were blessed to have some familiar faces stick around, too.

    Now that I’m in Jersey, my first experience with a pastor has been our wonderful Fr. Piotr. I’m new to the parish and so is he. He’s been here for a year and will finally be installed in November. I pray we’re blessed to have him for a lengthy stretch of time. :)

    But as you said, Fr. Z, may dear Msgr Fallon enjoy his eternal reward, and may his flock be blessed with another rock of stability.

  8. Legisperitus says:

    I’m not knowledgeable on the subject, but I was told by a priest that Canon Law presumes a priest’s appointment to a parish is for life.

    So even if term limits are the rule de facto, they are the exception de jure (or if Fr. Z insists, de iure).

  9. Phillip says:

    I never really understood the point in “term limits” for parish priests. It makes more sense to me for a priest’s assignment to be based on the needs of the diocese and parish and not on a predetermined length of time he can spend in one place. We’ve seen that bad things can happen when a priest is at a parish for a very long time and begins to feel that it’s “his” parish in the wrong sense of the possessive pronoun and forget that they’re not their “own boss” (that guy in Chicago that was in the news awhile ago comes to mind), but that seems to me more like an individual thing that should be dealt with on an individual basis. Clearly lots of good things can happen when one priest can really get to know a community and guide it in the long-term. Can anyone explain to me the logic behind a set time limit for priests to spend in one place?

    To answer the question, I *think* the pastor of my geographical parish has been there for about eight or nine years. The pastor of the EF parish I go to and really ought to get around to registering at has been there since his ordination in 2007.

  10. LarryPGH says:

    “I am all for keeping priests in the same parish for a long time, if he is a holy priest.”

    Cath, I’m not picking on you… just using your statement as one that’s representative of many expressed here — you just did a good job of expressing it succinctly!

    Here’s the problem I see with the thought that “good pastors shouldn’t be moved”: what do we do with everyone else? Following things to their logical ends, wouldn’t this mean that there’d be a group of parishes with “stable” pastor assignments and another group with constant re-shuffling? What would that do to the Catholics living in those parishes? What would that do to the reputation of a recently-assigned pastor (that is to say, wouldn’t the default assumption become “Father got re-assigned because he’s not a good pastor”?), let alone what it would do to the chances that he’d have a fair shot at being effective as the pastor!

  11. Miriam says:

    And then there is Father Fleger of Chicago.

    He has been there for many long years and is a poster boy for moving priests.

  12. Miriam says:

    Oops misspelling.

    It’s Fr. Pfleger. Sorry.

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    24 years — after a fairly long career in the Chancery including Vicar General and Administrator during an interregnum. And he has accomplished great things here — not only bricks-and-mortar (although that is not nothing) but building up parish life, including an excellent prep school K-12 and a small (so far) college that awards both undergraduate and graduate degrees (and has the mandatum for every professor).
    He is a tireless go-getter with a photographic memory and a man to whom it is impossible to say “no”, he also has a tough streak — all probably inevitable given his experience. He seems to know everybody not only in the parish but in the Archdiocese and beyond, and they know him (I was 100 miles away and the parish priest there knew him from seminary.)
    But at the same time he is so faithful and so tenderhearted . . . almost anybody in the parish can give you a personal story of how he went out of his way and moved heaven and earth to help people and families in need. And he seems to have a knack for getting young priests on board who are brilliant and on fire for Christ.
    I hope he stays another 24 years (he probably doesn’t – although if he retires he won’t know what to do with himself).
    Prayers for Msgr. Fallon.

  14. Banjo pickin girl says:

    One year. They get 3 years, may be renewable for 3 more. Just as well. Ours can be a maneating parish.

  15. Jacob says:

    My pastor who just moved last year had been at my parish since the late 90s, long before I arrived. My current pastor is in his sixties. He could very well stay until he retires or our parish merges with the other parishes in the neighborhood.

  16. William says:

    The position of pastor enjoyed greater importance before Canon Law was revamped in the last century. Pastors, once designated, were given the option to transfer (excepting irregularities). Pastors had clout in those days and they used it. A territorial parish (still relevant) mirrored the Diocese in structure and organization; which in turn mirrored the Papacy in structure and organization. Subsidiarity?

  17. Sarah H says:

    We’ve hard our current pastor for 3 months. For 30+ years the parish was administered by the Fransiscans and our last pastor (who retired this summer at the age of 80) was with us for 20 of those. Because the Fransciscans didn’t have enough men to continue running the parish, the diocese asked the Missionaries of the Precious Blood to take over – and so far they’ve been absolutely fantastic! I hope we have our current pastor for many years to come.

    Stability is an advantage to being served by an order, as here they’re not subject to the regular rotation diocesan priests go through. When I was growing up (in a different parish) priests were rotatated quite frequently (6 priests in 9 years), and it got to be very disruptive. I think overall stability is a good thing, but I can also appreciate that some priests can get too entrenched or develop little cults of personality, that are just as unhealthy for the parish as constant change.

  18. irishgirl says:

    The TLM chapel I go to doesn’t have a resident pastor. The priests who come to offer Mass are from out of town, so they’re only here for Mass on a rotating basis.
    My priest-friend in England has been at his current parish since 1997. I think this is the longest time he’s been in the same place since he was ordained by Blessed John Paul II in 1982.
    Sometimes I don’t liked term limits, especially if I happen to like a priest and have gone to him for confession or spiritual direction. It always seemed to happen that I find a good priest just before he gets transferred!
    Another thing I have about term limits is, what happens if a parish priest begins to offer the EF Mass on a regular basis, and then he gets transferred and either the parish merges or closes, and his successor doesn’t like the traditional Mass and drops it? Then those who were attending it have to look for another parish that has it!

  19. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    At my home parish, the pastor has been there for nearly 12 years, and it is looking as if he will be there until he retires in a few years.

    That diocese seems to shuffle around the younger priests and pastors more often, as if trying to make sure they have found a good fit, and then leave them there for a longer period. (I have often heard a 10 year term, which can be extended). Several parishes around me have had the same pastor since I moved there in 2001, while several younger priests (including some pastors) whom I know have moved at least once in that time.

    The parish who is in charge of the campus ministry I attend however, was founded in 2005, and the pastor was reassigned this summer (which I guess makes 6 years). A fairly strange move in my eyes, as the other priest was reassigned at the same time (due to becoming vocations director), meaning when I returned for school, the campus ministry was run by two whole new people. Not exactly a smooth transition.

    I agree that the long period can work both ways, in fostering a community and promoting the Faith, but it can, as already pointed out, also lead to a Fr. Pfleger who sees himself as king of the parish, and does whatever he wants.

  20. LarryPGH says:

    Miriam,

    Yes, but … would you want to be responsible for foisting him on another parish?

  21. CarpeNoctem says:

    Talking with priest colleagues, one of the drawbacks we see to not having longer assignments is the negative effect it probably has on priestly vocations. Wasn’t there a blogger who wrote on this very subject in about the last six months… ? Might it have been from Shouts in the Piazza?

    I have had three big-time assignments already (in less than 7 years), and just as soon as I am finally getting names and families really sorted out in my mind, I am off to the next post… it is very hard to have any continuity, it is very hard to discern or help young’uns discern a possible call beyond a very superficial level when you don’t have that trusted, enduring relationship to talk about such weighty things.

    Obviously this is a generalization… one can promote and encourage vocations in many other, shorter-time-horizon-ways, but to really know a potential candidate well enough to call them out when they might otherwise be hiding, to target the high-quality candidates tested by and over time, to allow young people to really get to know their pastors from the other point of view, it seems that the musical-assignments process overall does great harm to vocational recruitment.

  22. Ef-lover says:

    In my parish the pastor is been there about 10 years, in my opinion that’s been 9 years too long–yes he has done some good things such as to return Jesus to the center of the sanctuary but all in all the parish is been going down hill — it has become more secular under his watch and the assistant priest are not much better except for a good holy priest from India.

  23. Gregg the Obscure says:

    We got a new pastor in June 2010. Abp. Chaput’s practice in Denver was to appoint pastors for six-year terms, and generally no more than two consecutive terms in a given parish. The previous pastor had been in the parish for eleven years and is now on an extended leave of absence to care for his ill mother.

  24. anilwang says:

    LarryPGH asked “what do we do with everyone else?”

    I see it this way, don’t change what works, and change carefully what doesn’t.

    So I agree with Cath, as long as that priest can connect to his parish. But honestly, even a holy priest can be poorly matched to a parish. A priest that bases his sermons on Summa Theologica might be better suited to a university parish than a skid row parish.

    So if the priest is well matched with his parish and is holy, keep him where he is. If he is holy but poorly matched, then move him to where he is better matched.

    If he is not holy, the adjust his pastoral duties so that he can still serve, but he cannot do any serious damage and then look at the reasons for this lack. Is it lack of education? Teach him. Is it a personal defect (e.g. an addiction), provide the appropriate pastoral medicine. Does he have a personal agenda against the Church? Place the priest where he can be humbled so that he can understand through experience personally the reason things are as they are? Has this been tried and the priest just refuses to stop being destructive? Remove him from his duties.

    But there is one other case. Imagine a parish that has been devastated by a former priest. Any new priest, no matter how holy would have a hard time undoing the damage, but an experienced holy priest can. There are two candidates for this. There are priests that are poor at forming bonds with their parish (i.e. the “bean counter/quality control type”), but fantastic at “bringing a parish inline with the standards”. Such priest can be parachuted in to fix the problem, and when they have done their work, be shifted to another parish that needs help, and a new priest be given the parish to connect to the parish. IMO, this is the best alternative. The second possible candidate is an experienced priest that has proven himself in a parish. It will be a loss for that parish, but Holy priests need to be given greater and greater responsibilities. If this never happened, we would never have Bishops or Cardinals or Popes.

  25. acardnal says:

    I think that the Church’s has learned over the centuries and is wise to term limit both the pastor and the parochial vicars (associate pastors) so that they don’t become attached to their flock and the flock doesn’t become attached to them. Attachment by the flock to a priest and his homilies or pastoral skills and gifts can lead one away from what is really happening at the Holy Mass and instead focus attention on the the person of the priest.

  26. Jenice says:

    I agree with Brent’s comments. We were both at your talk last night in KC, and REALLY wish many of the diocesan priests and the 2 KC bishops had been there. Thanks for a great talk.

    Our pastor has been at our parish for about 6 years. He’ll be there at least 10. The parish has had a deserved reputation for orthodoxy until he appeared. He changes the words to the Mass, moves feast days, organizes “readers’ theatre” for Lenten Gospels, etc. In spite of the fact that this parish is where I became Catholic, my family is changing parishes rather than stick out his tenure.

    Long tenure is a blessing with an orthodox priest. It is a disaster when the priest thinks the Mass is his property to do with as he pleases.

  27. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    The pastor of the parish of which I am parochial vicar (Santo Christo in Fall River, Mass.) has been in place since 1995 — unusual for my diocese.

  28. Ralph says:

    Our pastor has been in place for 10 years. At 12 years, he will have to move to a new parish. This rule is fairly new (in the last decade in our diocese). Pastors could be “grandfathered in” if they had been in a parish for a long time before the rule change.

    I think the stated reason for the rule is that they wanted to keep from having “little kingdoms” form.

    I am not sure how I feel about it. Like some others said, good and bad from both sides.

  29. The founding pastor of the nation’s first fully-EF parish in Richmond, Va, just retired after 20 years there. Upon receiving our two wonderful FSSP priests, his replacements, we’re all wondering how long the Fraternity will let us keep these fine priests… it seems, anecdotally, that the FSSP shifts their men around quite a bit. Please, let us keep ours for a long time!
    If anyone knows how the Fraternity views this issue, I’d love to know.

  30. lucy says:

    You’re correct in saying it’s a thing that can cut both ways. If he’s liberal, you wish he’d leave. If he’s more orthodox, you wish he’d stay forever.

  31. I think in our archdiocese it’s 14 years for a pastor, with an option for the archbishop to give them another 7 years. (Well, really it’s always an option to keep renewing, if he feels like it, or move people around at any time.) There’s also supposed to be a sabbatical year in there sometime. But don’t believe me too much, because this is just what I think I recall someone saying.

  32. ReginaMarie says:

    Our priest just celebrated his 4th anniversary at our tiny Byzantine Catholic parish, which is one year longer than most priests are usually there.

  33. paul c says:

    In New York, the standard term is 6 years for a pastor, with one renewal the norm (so 12 years). Associate Pastors are in place for 3 years. My understanding is that this rule is put in place to defend orthodoxy and to minimize the potential for personality cults to ferment (like Father Phleger in Chicago). By constant change, the church in New York is seen as a whole and not as resulting from the work of one man and in total, you get the average priest. Granted, there are downsides for both the priests and the congregations in some loss of familiarity, but really, you can get to know someone pretty well in 6 months if you are active in parish life .

  34. Chuck says:

    A similar discussion was raised over at Why I am Catholic (9/17/11 post) , wherein he suggests that Priests should be treated as, and act as officers in the military, or in our case The Church Militant. Priests should be leading us to Heaven. Strong leadership is necessary for us to all reach Heaven.

    In the military you are moved around with each assignment lasting a set number of years. Using the submarine service as an example, the first Junior Officer tour is as a Division Officer (e.g. running the electricians, or fire control techs). After the JO tour you are sent to school to become qualified as the Chief Engineer (Head of the Engineering Department) and return to a differnt sub to be the Chief Engineer (or other Department Head), typcially followed by a shore tour, a tour at sea as the Executive Officer on a third sub, Propsective Commanding Officers School and possibly a shore tour and then command of your own sub. By the end of your CO tour you are at 20 years, and served on at least four different subs. There are then squadron and group commands as well. This allows the officers to gain in knowledge and experience, including learning different management styles and can see what workd and what does not. While it is painful to lose a well respected officer to the inevitable rotation it does limit the pain one has to endure when one is faced with someone who is not up to snuff. When one is dealing with an individual who needs redirection this should come from below (in as respectful a way as possible) and from above (in as respectful a way as possible). One benefit to the individual that is often not spoken of is the ability to put mistakes behind them; as familiarity breeds contemp, and as the Navy’s math is 1 “Oh No” equals 100 “Attaboys” sometimes it’s best when you make your mistake, take your licks, learn and then move on. It’s much easier to move past a bad experience when there is not the same old crew saying “Yeah, I remember when Mr. So-and-so, broached with the Commodore on board.”

    I am former Presbyterian (who joyfully joined the Catholic Faith in 2008) who grew up in a church where the Senior Pastor had been there for 40+ years and had developed quite a cult of personality. Considering that most Priests don’t “retire” until 75 (we had a retired priest serving as a weekend associate at 95) the length of tours needs to be longer, but I don’t think they should be permanent. I also think that all the priests within a parish should not be rotated out on the same schedule to allow for continuity.

    In any case, the Priest should be cognisant of his role as a servant to the parishoners, and the parishoners should treat him with the respect he deserves, especially while administering the sacraments.

    That’s my 2 cents. My apologies for running so long.

  35. everett says:

    I recently moved to a parish where the priest had retired after 17 years there. It was very much a case of a personality cult having formed, and immeasurable damage had been done liturgically. It’s going to be a slow process getting it fixed.

  36. rollingrj says:

    My parish was assigned a new priest who began this past August. He is taking over for a priest who has finally retired after serving over 54 years in this diocese, the last 22 at this parish.

    Change is in the air.

  37. avecrux says:

    I really can’t say enough AGAINST “term limits”. “Hate” is not too strong a word.
    Conversion takes time. Healing takes time. Would you want your Doctor switched constantly while you are in cancer treatment – each one with a different treatment plan???? UGH.
    Families cannot settle in a good parish – we can’t move house to follow good Pastors around (although we put plenty of miles on the car… but we can’t form community like we should do). Faithful Priests can’t accomplish enough. And “lay ministers” think the Parish is theirs – “cos we’re going to be around long after THIS Pastor is gone….”. This does NOT foster the teaching of the Church, where the Parish should be the focal point of our life… it can’t be when it changes all the time – and some changes can be totally radical! In a word, “term limits” STINK. (to high Heaven) St. John Vianney is the Patron of Parish Priests. Good thing he wasn’t moved around constantly….

  38. Papabile says:

    I am attaching a link for an excellent article from Homiletic and Pastoral Review on the issue of stability in the pastorate.

    Ironically, when I read it for the first time, I had no idea that this holy Priest would be stationed at my parish in the next few years.

    I really encourage people interested in the issues regarding stability to read this:

    http://www.hprweb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=60:pastors-and-stability-of-office&catid=35:older-articles&Itemid=54

  39. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    A priest-friend who is canon lawyer explained to me that unless the bishop’s letter appointing someone as pastor specifies a term, the assignment is permanent; i.e., the pastor will have the right to refuse a transfer should he be asked to go elsewhere (can. 522). Term limits are permitted in the U.S. by indult of the Holy See, but not all dioceses make use of the concession.

  40. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Oops… I commented without having seen the link to the HPR article in Papabile’s reply.

  41. Our priest has been here for 2 months.

    The last 3 priests were here for 18 months each.

    The priest before that was 6 years.

    Our diocese states they are 6 year terms, but we haven’t had the stability for almost 6 years now.

    It’s getting painful- we barely start to know the priest and the Bishop moves him, then we have substitute priests for 3 months before the new priest begins. It’s been a awful cycle in our parish. We are really hoping this new priest is here for at least a few years.

  42. marajoy says:

    My (wonderful) priest has been there for about 7 years. Well, in his case, thank goodness for term limits, cuz that’s what got rid of the (awful) priest before him. (Well, that and he was retiring.) But, now, everyone has to live in fear and trepidation for when our current dear priest will randomly be moved!

  43. MJ says:

    Our two awesome FSSP priests have been at our parish for the last 2 years. The priest before that was there for 4 (if I remember right). I think the Fraternity has it about right, the way they move priests around.

  44. We have our Pastor who has been there for about 11 years I think…I’m not sure if that’s too long or not. I think it depends on the Priest and how he spends his 11 years or so. This particular one has seemed to become more of a CEO than a Pastor at times, but that may just be my perception. He has his crowd of groupies and sometimes I feel slighted – but again, that may just be me. We have a semi-retired priest who comes on the weekends and then we have a wonderful younger priest who has been with us for almost 5 or 6 years which is kind of rare around here. He’s the exact opposite of our Pastor which is good for people like me b/c I love him to pieces and hope he never leaves, but then others love the other one. So – not an easy question to answer. I think as long as it’s working – it should remain status quo.

  45. AnAmericanMother says:

    Pros and cons on both views of course, but here’s my two cents:
    A bishop should be flexible and bear in mind both the dangers of frequent transfers and the dangers of allowing somebody to get entrenched. I’m not sure a hard and fast policy is a good idea, a set of guidelines might be better.
    Given that we are so blessed with our current pastor, my personal prejudice is in favor of letting them stay so long as that does not cause problems.
    I’m sure I’m also affected by my husband’s grandfather’s experience with the Methodist Method, which is to transfer a minister every 2-3 years. My grandfather-in-law was a “Visiting Fireman” — the conference would put him in a church that was struggling, he would preach like a house on fire, hold a bunch of revivals, get the church’s financial house in order . . . and then they would transfer him to the next problem church. It was hard on him (and hard on his family) and hard on the congregations. He did get a bunch of beautifully crafted “friendship quilts” — some of which we still have — but that seems small consolation for being uprooted every 2 years and moved all over the Southeast and the American Southwest for half a century!
    Another Methodist observation — my great-aunt was a member of the same Methodist church in Rome, GA from her birth in 1892 until she died in 1985. The two preachers who held her funeral had just been transferred in about a month previously, so the funeral sermon was mostly along the lines of “We never met her, but we hear she was a wonderful person . . . ” As I said, hard on the congregation.

  46. Henry says:

    I’m actually registered in two parishes. One (rather liberal and unstable) has had 4 pastors in 5 years. The other (rather conservative and stable) has had the same pastor for 15 years; his predecessor was pastor of the parish for 38 years.

  47. Darren says:

    Lemme see… in my New Jersey parish, going back to 2007 we received two new priests when one retired and one 4 years from his ordination was moved on. So we had our pastor, in his 11th year (Msgr S) one priest who was there ten years or more, (Fr T), then we got newly ordained Episcopalian-priest convert (Fr. D) who I thought was great! Beautiful mass! Used to annoy some of the EOM’s when he prayed his private prayers in Latin. And we also had a new priest from Colombia come to us (Fr M). Well, one year later… Msgr. S was moved as he reached his 12 year limit. Fr. T, who gave really great no nonsense homilies (“this is how it is, like it or not!”) was moved… but then also! Fr. D was moved because there was apparently a need for someone elsewhere with “pastor experience” (he was an Episcopalian pastor before his transfer). I really miss him, he celebrated mass so beautifully and gave great homilies. Fr. M was also moved (my favorite confessor for the year we had him), a most kind and humble priest… but I think a lot of people complained about his poor English (he tried very hard). So all 4 were gone in one year, replaced with 3 others who are still there now – for about 3 and a half years. We also had a couple priests from Nigeria and Uganda spend a little over a year each with us during these years.

    During these three years we have gotten a new bishop in my diocese and I am hoping that priests will stick around longer. If St. John Vianney can spend an entire priesthood at one parish, and he is the patron saint of priests, I think any priest can spend his entire priesthood at one parish. Too many rotating priests! Just when you really get familiar with someone who you like, BAM!! He’s gone.

  48. Federico says:

    Here in the US? Each one has been a short time.

    When I lived in Italy? Ah, well, a different story — one particular story stands out though.

    I lived in several places in Italy and I spent a significant amount of my young life in Conca dei Marini (SA). The pastor there (still there) when I was a kid had been pastor a long time (I was an altar boy at his Mass celebrating 25 years of his priesthood, in 1974, when he’d already been pastor in that parish 20 years).

    I went some 20 years without returning to Conca dei Marini until I visited again in 2004, some 20 years since the last time I’d been there (I’d since married and had 5 children). The pastor took one look at me and said “se non sbaglio tu sei un mio chierichetto prodigo!” (“if I’m not mistaken you’re one of my prodigal altar boys.”) gave me a hug and took me to the local bar for an aperitivo.

    He’s still there, he’s 81 and he’s been pastor for 56 years. He told me the bishop of Amalfi became concerned about his workload and asked him to stop teaching religion at a nearby school. Bored with “not enough to do” he went back to school himself and completed his STL. He wrote his thesis on the story of Don Gaetano Amodio, a former pastor of the same parish who continues to have local devotion (see: http://www.positanonews.it/articoli/24991/conca_dei_marini_don_antonio_acampora_e_la_dedizione_a_don_gaetano_amodio_fate_un_comitato.html )

    Great guy.

  49. Dr. Eric says:

    Our Bishop gives a priest a 6 year term and if that works out, he gives the priest another 6 year term and then moves the priest to a different parish.

  50. Tina in Ashburn says:

    In my registered parish, our pastor has been there over 8 years. After waiting an interminable time for permission from the Bishop, we finally got a Gothic-style church built. I imagine the pastor will remain a few years to enjoy the fruit of his hard work.

    Our previous bishop [RIP] rotated pastors like clockwork every 7 years, 8 in some circumstances. Now our present bishop has extended the stays to what is looking like 10 years or more in many cases. The assistant pastor’s times have been shortened to 3 or less years.

    Fortunately, our wonderful diocese is full of hard-working, diligent, orthodox priests, many who say the Tridentine Mass. However there are a many parishes that remain way under-catechised and are very loosey-goosey liturgically. A priest can stay in spite of wacky music, messing with words of the Mass, personal complaints, or other dubious liturgical practices. No matter whether orthodox or loosey-goosey, one thing will move a pastor out PDQ: poor financial status.

  51. Anne C. says:

    Our parish is currently in flux, since our wonderful Pastor of barely two years died suddenly and much too young in June. We have subs weekly, and I am beginning to lose hope!

    The Pastor before that was here 13 years, I believe, which was a special exception from what I understand is our Archdiocese’s limit of 12 years.

    I have heard that they are having trouble finding a new Pastor, because of the fact that we have a school!

    Many of us are praying very hard, and calling people and writing letters and emails to see about getting back a wonderful Associate we had for one short year about fourteen years ago . . .

    If we had Fr. Z – we’d want to keep him forever!!!

  52. frjim4321 says:

    Have been here eight+ years with unlimited tenure.

    However a bishop friend tells me any pastor can be moved at the request of a bishop. I guess I could dig my heels in but that might not be smart. If a guy really got into a jam and had refused an assignment change, that could work out badly in the long run.

    Was at a place that had the same pastor for more than thirty years and it was really not fair to the people; he was functionally retired for the last ten years so the place had no pastor and his male caregiver – with no pastoral training – made all the decisions about the parish.

    It was a hard place to be the sole associate – it was a very long five years.

    As mentioned there are pro’s and con’s of term limits, and it probably depends on the person who is the pastor.

    With 15 years to retirement probably not good to inflict myself on these good people for that long, nor really fair to myself to risk stagnation.

  53. Former Altar Boy says:

    Our pastor (FSSP) told me the normal term for a pastor is six years (keep in mind, they are moved by their order, not the bishop for whom they serve). If a pastor is supposed to be the spiritual father of the flock in his care, it seems counter-productive to have a new “father” every six years.

    On the other hand, I have also seen a cult of personality develop around some long-term priests (these were NO parishes) to the point that people either move with the priest, like they were following their favorite hairdresser or mechanic) or leaving the Church altogether.

  54. APX says:

    @MJ
    The priest before that was there for 4 (if I remember right). I think the Fraternity has it about right, the way they move priests around.
    According to the internet, one of the FSSP priests at my parish has been here going on 9 years.

  55. Jayna says:

    At my current parish, I haven’t a clue. At my previous parish, the pastor has been there since 2006. I don’t know if there’s a term limit for pastorates in Atlanta. Some parishes, like my former one, seemed to get a new pastor every couple of years, but others have had theirs for decades. I can say it’s like a revolving door with the parochial vicars.

  56. MJ says:

    @APX – I didn’t mean that every FSSP priest is moved every 4 years; guess I should have started a new paragraph – sorry for the confusion. I just meant that in general I think the way FSSP priests are moved around is right (whether one priest is stationed at a parish for 4 years, another for 6, etc).

  57. In the diocese of Rockville Centre, I have noticed that Bishop Murphy has been very strict about limiting pastors to two six-year terms. In the past, some pastors served practically forever. My own pastor was one of the first to be moved; he had already served two six-year terms and was in the middle of a third when he was transferred. I have also noticed that even some pastors who have not completed their second term have been transferred. Part of this is simply because of the lack of qualified candidates and the needs that arise in particular situations. One pastor who had served nine years was transferred, I suspect, because another parish needed him for its extraordinary form Mass, and he had already been offering it privately where he had been on his days off from the regular weekday ordinary form Mass. (He once told the congregation that anyone was welcome to join him in the chapel on those days, and I happened to be there that day, which is how I know.) The previous pastor left in the middle of his first three year term and took a leave of absence before becoming an associate pastor elsewhere.

    Then pastors chicken out and die before their terms are complete, causing more waves of disruption, and sometimes the congregation chases them away, and sometimes they become bishops, creating vacancies, and so on and so forth.

    I think twelve years is sufficient for any man to be in one spot. It means that a parish can’t hog a good pastor, and no one gets stuck with the lesser ones forever. It also keeps everyone fresh. After twelve years, a pastor has pretty much said all he has to say, and it’s time for him to start over somewhere else where no one has heard all his homilies. Variety is the spice of life, for the pastor as well as for the congregation. No one person can completely capture God and approach Him from all angles.

  58. Mrs. Bear says:

    Our pastor was here for 6 years (first time as pastor) and was transferred to a larger parish in July (within the Archdiocese of Toronto).
    A few days before he left he prayed his first EF Low Mass. He trained the older servers for this mass and they did a spendid job.
    All the servers were solemn, reverent and respectful during his time as was a testimony to what he instilled in them.
    The year before, on the feast of Corpus Christi, he moved the tabernacle to the centre. It was taking a bit of time to slowly get the parish ready for the changes – as it was a pretty liberal parish before he arrived.
    We have a new pastor (first time as pastor) who was told by the Aux. Bishop that during mass the servers must stop bowing, genuflecting, acknowledging the altar, tabernacle and priest. (they would pass the tabernacle a few times) All the Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion and Cantors and all who enter the sanctuary were told the same thing.
    After all that reverence and the fact that the members of the parish were visually seeing the respect and acknowledgement of the Blessed Sacrament by those in the sanctuary we now are going back to the liberal mindset of not recognizing the Blessed Sacrament when it is right there. Very sad situation.
    In this archdiocese the norm is 6 -12 years. After 6 years the office may ask you to move or you may request to move but you have up until 12 years. Not sure if things are changing. But I know many priests are hoping that that the director of Priest Personnel will move on sooner than later.

    6 years is not enough time to change things if they need to be changed – but then if you get a priest who is more into the social justice and is more liberal minded – 6 years may be too long.

  59. TKS says:

    When I was growing up, priests moved every 3 years and that was normal to me. I am not a social person and never gave it much thought. I don’t expect our priests to know me, especially since we have 2000+ families. I do notice that with 3 priests, each one appeals to different kinds of people so we are all ‘covered’. I find I learn a lot from all these different priests. Now it’s up to 5 years for the new priests and longer for the older ones.

  60. Charivari Rob says:

    Current pastor, about 2.5 years. Glad to get him after about 5.5 years of acting admins – previous pastor (of 25-30 yrs) was ill & eventually died.

    A neighboring parish erected in the 40s & suppressed about 50 yrs later only had one pastor.

    My hometown parish – our late pastor was there 52 years (all but 3 as admin or pastor)

  61. Vic says:

    No story just … six pastors in ten years.

  62. LaudemGloriae says:

    Priests tend not to stay at our parish for longer than 3 years. Pastors last maybe 5-6 years. The entire archdiocese is always in a state of being re-shuffled. I got the impression this was being done intentionally so that the administrative powers remained with the parishioners/parish council. No priest is posted at a parish long enough to effect much change good or bad.

  63. Supertradmum says:

    In my Midwest Diocese, priests are changed every six years, and sometimes earlier. In England, I have noticed the trend is for priests to stay put–the one priest in the parish where I have been going to Mass has been there since 1999 or so.

    I have never understood why priests have to be moved every six years or so.

  64. MF says:

    After losing a very good Pastor to a transfer after 14 years, I thought that it was unfair, and why shouldn’t he be allowed to stay longer. Then we moved to a parish with a priest who had been for 35 years. He was not a very good priest and the Archbishop had tried to move him, but he brought in a canon lawyer and apparently “bucked” the system. Because he was not well-formed and had very many quite strange psychological problems, it brought much damage to the parish from his being there so long. The parish was not allowed to develop in a healthy way, and is now struggling to find itself after 35 yeras of bad influence from this one man. I see both sides of the issue, but I would not wish this situation on anyone. It’s hard when the priest is good to lose them, but when he’s not, let me tell you, it’s a welcome relief when the 6 years is up.

  65. Volanges says:

    I grew up in a parish where the Pastor who celebrated my parents’ marriage and our baptisms was in place 35 years. He retired in 1958 and I’ve never experienced anything like that since.

    I’ve been in my present parish since 1997. The Pastor when I got here had arrived just a month before me. He was followed by new Pastors in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2008 and now the search is on to replace that last one who was reassigned in August. So far, no luck finding anyone.

    The last pastor had succeeded in clearing up our debt, fixing the church, and setting up committees that worked well. Unfortunately, not everyone saw eye to eye with him on some of the physical changes he made in the church, changes that made the building less cluttered and more inviting when you came in. First he made them very happy by placing the Tabernacle behind the altar, then he made them mad by making them relocate a pet project of theirs. They’re taking advantage of the fact that the administrator couldn’t care less to make sure they return things to the way they were before another priest is assigned.

    It may prove difficult to find us someone. We are an isolated community and our parish has been served by the OMI since it was erected 53 years ago. The Province that has been sending us priests for the last 36 years only has ~5 under 50 and none seem disposed to move here.

  66. catholicmidwest says:

    I think it’s very important to move priests around every 10 years or so. Otherwise, they can come to think they personally own the place, which of course they don’t. This can lead to isolated peculiar practices and cliques which can diminish the Church’s ability to do what it must do for the general Catholic population.