“Ask a Priest: I Never Hear From Our Former Parish Priest – Is That Normal?”

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Q: Is it normal that a priest not keep in touch when he leaves a parish and is transferred to another parish? I did many projects for this priest, and we communicated almost every day for two years. He took us out to dinner and had us to the rectory for dinners and came to our home for dinner. I went to spiritual direction to him for a few years. It is very painful, his complete detachment. He was in a very difficult situation when he came to this parish, with many parishioners leaving because of his traditional ways. I liked the way he did things and publicly backed him and endured much suffering as a result. It seems so heartless the way this has gone. His new parish is only an hour away. I would appreciate any insight you can give me. It is very difficult not to feel used. – E.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is possible that the priest is absorbed with work in his new parish. He has a new flock now, and he needs to give priority to them.

This is part of the life of priests: They work in one vineyard, and then, when obedience requires it, they move on to another.

Even Jesus moved on when people wanted him to stay with them. “‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come’” (Mark 1:37-38).

It is possible that the priest was able to give you and your parish the attention he did, precisely because he had detached from his previous parish.

At any rate, it is Christ who is ultimately working through priests. One of the best things that priests can do is to bring people closer to Our Lord. Perhaps that is what the priest desired: to bring you closer to Jesus, not to himself.

Part of the legacy that the priest left in your parish is you, with your deeper formation in the faith. Now is the moment to share with others what you learned with the help of that priest.

When you feel resentment or confusion about the priest’s silence, it might help to turn your mind to a more supernatural viewpoint, for example, by saying a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the good that this priest did in your parish and in your life while he was there.

You might want to pray for him in his own assignment, and leave the rest in God’s hands. I’m sure that the priest never meant to use you. If he was as traditional as you suggest, his first focus likely was, and is, on building the Kingdom.

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