“Ask a Priest: How Should I Pull Back From a Ministry?”

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Q: I am involved with many ministries (RCIA helper, Respect Life leader, etc.) and I commute an hour each way daily and work full-time. I love everything I do for the Lord but sometimes feel overwhelmed with too much responsibility. I recently tried to back out of the leadership of one group but have been getting negative feelings from others. How do I respectfully withdraw from some of the ministries without feelings getting hurt and knowing that it is God’s will for me? – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you are so active in the Church.

As humans, we have limited time and resources. So we have to prioritize.

Jesus himself prioritized. Recall the time when Our Lord did a number of miracles in Capernaum, and people sought him out the next morning. The implication is that the town wanted him to stay and do more miracles.

His response? “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38).

Here, Jesus could have stayed and done more good things in Capernaum. But that wasn’t his core mission. He walked away from doing good in one town in order to pursue a greater good in many towns.

So what might you do in your case?

First, it would help to consider the demands on your time and take all this to prayer and see where the Holy Spirit is leading you.

If you have done so already and decided that it is better to step away from a ministry, then you should do it with a sense of serenity.

There are various ways of stepping away, however.

One is to do it on the spot. This rarely goes over well, and it might stir up a lot of bad feelings.

A better approach might be this: Calmly explain to the group why you feel the need to step back, and then propose a deadline when you plan to do so — say, two or three months from now.

In the meantime you could offer to propose a possible substitute and to help transition the person in. This will show your good will, and it could motivate others to take on more responsibility.

This kind of thing is not unusual in the work of spreading the Gospel and helping others.

Church personnel are reassigned all the time. Parishes and religious orders adjust. It is part of life.

Besides, organizations ideally shouldn’t be totally dependent on one person. Systems need to be in place so that things can continue if one or another person moves on.

Now, none of this is to deny that at times Our Lord will be asking us to go the extra distance and do something that isn’t easy for us. But if someone finds that he has too much on his plate and that his prayer life or health is suffering, it’s understandable that he rethink his use of time and recalibrate accordingly.

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