“Ask a Priest: What If a Celebrity Priest Seems to Neglect His Parish?”

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Q: I took a new job at my church some months ago. It is very rewarding, and I truly feel like God put me in the position for a reason. I was hired to work with volunteers and handle the schedule of the priests. Our pastor has become a bit of a celebrity and has started a virtual show that he hosts three times a week. He is reaching thousands of people around the world, and it is really an amazing thing to see. But I am so disheartened because his priority is not our parish, and I really feel the parishioners are being neglected. For example, we use retired priests to help out when we need it. Our poor retired priests said they are unable to say no if I call them, and I truly worry that they are being overworked simply because our pastor is too tired from his other endeavors. He has not heard confessions in two weeks for one reason or another. He will not do more than one funeral a week, or more than two weddings a month. He does not have regular office hours. He recently built a studio in the rectory for his show, and he rarely comes by the parish office anymore. I am increasingly disheartened and I am not sure who to speak to or just stay quiet. I know that I could never understand the demands and pressure of a priest. I am looking for guidance or insight. There is another staff member who is very close to him and does not allow anyone to speak to him. It is just very hard to understand what is appropriate. There was a lot of turnover before I was hired, so I know this is not a new problem. – J.R.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It can happen that priests get distracted from their core duties, even for the best of motives.

Obviously, I don’t know how the priest sees the situation.

You might try approaching that staff member who is close to him, and see if the both of you can approach the pastor.

If the staffer refuses, you might try contacting your pastor directly, in person or by e-mail, about how much you appreciate his work, but that you are concerned that the substitute priests are burning out.

This might prompt your pastor to rethink his priorities, especially if he finds out the retired priests are suffering.

If that fails, you could contact the chancery, to bring the problem to the bishop’s attention. At that point you should leave things in the bishop’s hands.

In the meantime, you might want to intensify your prayers for the pastor and the parish.

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One Comment
  1. Good response, Father. Especially to ‘pray’ for this pastor and the parish he was assigned to serve.

    Answers to prayer take time, of course, but ‘how to handle’ the ‘celebrity priest’ will come.

    I know one duty of the ministerial priesthood is to celebrate Mass. If he is not celebrating Mass in the
    parish and providing the Eucharist to the faithful, this would be reason to let the magisterial authority
    know. (BUT one needs to be SURE of this fact) If this person keeps the Mass schedule for priests, then yes IT WOULD SEEM this person was given her job for a reason. Photocopy the book schedule and speak in person to one in authority. (Bishop) LEAVE OFF all other ‘facts’ . . . just the book facts of Mass schedule.

    Assume he is a good priest, just not meant for parish work. Perhaps more ‘administrative’ in the …. is it
    chancery office of the archdiocese? (but MASS is still his obligation) Pray for the guidance of the Holy
    Spirit . . . in how to speak.

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