From a reader…
As you mentioned in one of your other posts, it’s the the season of ordinations. It’s also the season for priest transfers. Our pastor of 12 years is being transferred to a different parish in another city of the diocese, and I’m absolutely devastated. He is such a wonderful priest, so vibrant and engaging. The youth just love him. We’ve all become really attached to him and don’t want him to leave. Why do priests have to get transferred so frequently? This doesn’t seem like something found in the history of the church. Also, what can we do to either stop him from being transferred, or make this process as painless as possible for both our priest and the parish?
It seems that bishops have the right to appoint pastors stably, or to six-year terms in the US. Within that framework, they have flexibility.
Is it a nostrum to tell people to love their priest, no matter who he happens to be at the moment, and to focus on Christ rather than the individual priest? That might seem callously dismissive of people’s natural affection for one priest.
They should certainly give the new priest an opportunity to be who he is, without constant comparison to the priest who is leaving. The new pastor will have strengths and weaknesses that might not line up with the outgoing pastor.
Meanwhile, I think we can have grave doubts about the wisdom of these 6 or 12 year terms. First, they seem merely to permit bishops not to have work out problems or difficulties with priests. They can just wait them out, all the time avoiding dialogue or potential conflicts. Also, the policy undermines a priest’s ability to shape a parish in the long term. No sooner does he figure out where all the keys are, but he is worrying about being moved.