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“Ask a Priest: How May I Help my Parish Priest Prudently?”
Q: I feel the sense of friendship toward my parish priest, but I do not want this to be misunderstood. Sometimes I want to help my priest and offer support, but I am a female and I don’t want to cause any unnecessary scandal. I do not want to “cross the line.” How far would be “too far”? -M.M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Thanks for your concern about helping a priest. At the same time, your concerns about avoiding scandal are prudent.
Still, there are many ways you could discreetly support your priest.
First, pray for him and all priests. He and all priests need lots of prayers.
Second, be an active parishioner. Regular attendance at Mass and participation in parish activities are good ways to support your priest in the wide sense.
Third, try to see your parish priest as someone who is married — in this case, to the Church, the bride of Christ. This might help to cast a light on all the decisions you make regarding your dealings with him. You won’t want to spend too much time chatting with him or finding ways to bump into him “unexpectedly,” for instance.
In practice, this might mean offering help through third parties, such as a rectory receptionist. This helps to keep things transparent. So if you want to prepare, say, a feast day meal or fancy dessert for the priest, instead of asking him directly, go through his secretary.
Another thing that might help is to band together with others in the parish to offer assistance. Then two representatives of the group could approach the priest with offers of help, etc.
Fourth, keep an eye on your own motivations. Relationships with priests can start out innocently but later take a turn down an inconvenient path. Here, it is good to be realistic. The human heart can be like flypaper, quick to stick.
Fifth, look to help a variety of priests if possible. This could include guest preachers or the staff at the local seminary.
For further reading, see Fr. John Bartunek’s article here.
And keep praying for vocations. Your support for priests and vocations can be invaluable. God bless.