The National Catholic Review
Robert Kress
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Many people talk about the priest as acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. But so do all the baptized. They act in the person of Christ in various ways, as Paul emphasizes. There is one body of Christ with many different members. There is one Holy Spirit, who gives to the different members of the church many different gifts, all intended to enable all the members to make their proper contribution to building up the church to its fullness and maturity (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11, 22-30; Eph. 4:7-13). Jesus said that we are branches of himself, the vine, so that we share his life (John 15:1-17). How then could we not act in the person of Christ?

Also contributing to the misunderstanding of the priesthood is the general monasticizing of the whole church. The monk is one who flees from the worldin the classic Latin phrase, fuga mundi. Legitimate in itself as a concrete way of being a member of the church, this monastic approach unfortunately came to dominate Christianity in both theory and practice. Although one could not simply and totally flee out of the world, Christian perfection was portrayed as requiring as little participation in worldly affairs as possible.

A serious consequence for priest-pastors was a sort of schizophrenia. Their education and formation were in the monastic mode, but their ministry required them to operate in a worldly mode. Two pastor friends of mine illustrate this very well. One repeats constantly: I hate all this administrative stuff! As the other pastor scurries about, he proclaims: They didn’t tell us about this in the seminary! And he is correct. They certainly did not!

Seminary education and formation were geared much more to making us spiritualholy men, little monks, abstaining from the worldrather than secular priests, active and participating in the world. In practice, this flight and abstention from the world was never fully practiced. After all, Trappists make and sell candy and cheese, and Benedictines make and sell coffins. But it was the dominant ideology that pervaded the whole Catholic church (priests, religious, laity) and complicated the lives of all the Catholics living their faith in the world.

A final and very misleading factor is the very word priest itself. As Daniel Donovan noted in a survey of contemporary theological interpretations of the priesthood, about the only constant was reluctance about the term priest (What Are They Saying About the Ministerial Priesthood? Paulist Press, 1992). Priest is simply not the best term to describe what those called priests are and do. A few years ago I saw in a church vestibule a poster recruiting vocations to the priesthood. It proclaimed: And what does the priest do the other six days of the week? This illustrates very well the inadequacy of the term priest. It has become too much of a liturgical term to describe the nature of the ordained member in the church.

Unfortunately we still speak of the sacrament of the priesthood, but that is not correct. The proper term is the sacrament of holy orders (in Latin, Ordo). The history of this term hints at the proper role of those called priests. For a long time in Europe, society was arranged into orders. How just the actual arrangement may or may not have been is not of concern to us here, only that the term was used to describe the arrangement or orderliness of society. There was also a longstanding arrangement of major and minor orders in the administrative cadre of the church. However reliable theologically and however effective pastorally this may have been, it manifested a concern for the orderly life of the church.

The term holy orders is preferable because it at least hints that the precise job of the ordained, the priest-pastor, is to care for the order, the orderliness of the church. There are two dimensions to this order: the general, everyday life and organization of the church and the special ritual, liturgical celebration of this orderliness, especially in the sacraments and most especially in the Eucharist. It is not that the priest has no priestly dimension at all, but such a dimension does not tell the whole story and can be misleading.

Concern that the church should be orderly is not new. It was already a great concern of St. Paul. In one of his earlier letters he emphasized that our God is not a God of chaos and anarchy, but a God of order and peace (1 Cor. 14:33). Elsewhere he excoriates those unruly and meddlesome busybodies who disturb the orderly life of the community (Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5).

We should recall that in the New Testament the term priest is normally reserved to Christ and to Christians in general (1 Pt. 2:9). It is not applied to individual members of the church or to a particular function or office. If not priest, what is the best term to describe what the priest is and does? Without doubt it is a term that has been with us from the very beginning of the church, episkopos. This Greek word is familiar to us in English, after a long and tortuous etymological journey, as bishop. Literally it means someone who looks overa supervisor, superintendent, overseer (I am reluctant about the last term, since it is so redolent of slavery). Other possible translations include to watch over, to be a presiding elder, guardian, president. One I like very much is to be careful that, to see to it that. The ordained person is someone who is publicly authorized and empowered to see to it that the church is an orderly community, supportive of those already members, attractive to those not yet (1 Cor. 14:22-25).

Five other New Testament terms describing what the priest is and does are listed in a separate box. They all indicate that the ordained member of the church is in today’s terms a manager. I once made (at least tried to make) this point in a talk to diocesan priests. Afterward one said to me: Bob wants us to be managers, not pastors! But then what is a pastor/shepherd but a manager of sheep?

Of the New Testament terms, I like proistamenos the best. It can be translated the one who stands in front of/before. In contemporary terminology, it would mean that the ordained member of the church is really a foreman. This term does not have all the dignity and prestige of manager or C.E.O., but it does emphasize that the priest, bishop and pope do not stand over, but in front of the people. This would certainly please Jesus, Peter and Paul, who exhorted all members of the church, especially the managers, not to lord it over others (Mt. 20:24-28; 1 Pt. 5:1-4). Indeed, Paul goes so far as to refer to himself as a co-worker with the people for their happiness (2 Cor. 1:24).

Manager and other contemporary terms may not sound as romantic as shepherd, especially since we are so familiar with the picture of the Good Shepherd with the cute little lamb draped around his shoulders. On the other hand, shepherds hardly enjoyed a romantic reputation at the time of Christ. They are included in at least three rabbinic lists of occupations forbidden because of their immorality. The term manager does have an apostolic and honorable ancestry. Paul emphasized that the bishop must be a good manager (proistamenos) of his own household, for if a man does not know how to manage his own house, how can he take care of the church of God? (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Manager is an extremely honorable term in contemporary culture. I sometimes watch CNBC, the financial news channel (my seminary education included nothing about the world of finance and commerce except for exhortations to avoid greed). When people ask the experts about the advisability of buying a certain stock, the only decisive factor is always phrased thus: You can always buy good management!

Peter Drucker, the great guru of management theory, has proclaimed: In this century the managers of our major institutions have become the leaders in every developed country. The old leadership groups, whether the aristocracy or the priesthood, have disappeared entirely or have become insignificant. Even the scientists, the priesthood of the post-World War II period, have lost much of their prestige (Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, 1974). Under these circumstances it can hardly be deemed demeaning to be called a manager.

If priest-pastors are managers, precisely what do they manage? It is the union and communion of the church, its public and peaceful order.

Near the end of his career, the German theologian Karl Rahner, S.J., proposed a similar approach to the priesthood, emphasizing that the priest is properly a pastor. The priest-pastor is the Beziehungsperson of the local church (the parish) to the greater, universal church. Beziehung comes from the German verb that means to relate to. Rahner explains that the precise job of the priest-pastor is the relationships of the church. For example, the pastor is to care for, see to it that the relationships within the parish are in good shape and that the relationship of this parish to the greater church (the diocese and the universal church) is likewise flourishing. The priest-pastor’s job is to preserve and promote the unity of the church. This understanding of the priest-pastor corresponds to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s understanding that the bishop’s task is to be a bond of unity. The papacy’s principal task is to create such a balance between the universal church and the local churches (On the Universal Church, America, 4/23/01). Thus episcopacy is the preferred description of the office and ministry of holy orders in the church.

How this management is carried out in practice will be different for local pastor, bishop and pope. These three instances clearly differ in the scope of their responsibility. The pope’s is the whole world; a local pastor’s may be only a few blocks in a big-city Catholic ghetto. On the other hand, the pastor can have a more intense personal relationship with his people than the pope can have with a billion Catholics.

Unfortunately, Catholics tend to pay too little attention to the first pope’s performance in this regard. It is even more striking, then, that a Protestant theologian should emphasize that Simon Peter did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Christianity (James Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, 1977). No more fitting summary can be found than that of a Benedictine theologian teaching in Rome, who commented on that office and ministry traditionally known as shepherd/pastor: In fact, they do all the things which are necessary for the good order (recto ordine) of the church community (Magnus Loehrer, De Ecclesia, Rome, 1966).

All this may sound vague and hazy. However, too often when priests think of themselves as managers, they think of someone who buys toilet paper, worries about leaks in the church roof and is exercised by the price of hot dogs for the school cafeteria. Some managers have to do such things, but not the priest-pastor manager.

In one sense, the priest-pastor does not have to do any one particular thing. He does have to see to it that whatever needs to be done is actually done. He has to see to it that the needs of the people are met and that their abilities are cultivated so that they can, all in their own individual, proper ways, make their appropriate contributions to the building up of the whole church (1 Cor. 14:20).

How this is done in practice will differ greatly from parish to parish, diocese to diocese, throughout the universal church. Vatican II encouraged inculturation in regard to the liturgy. The same principle applies to the general pastoral theology and care of the whole church and the administration and management required by it. Just as the essence of the Holy Eucharist remains the same, however it may be ritually celebrated, so does the essence of the ordained office remain the same, however it may be pastorally practiced. Whatever the practice, in principle the priest remains the manager of the orderly life, both pastoral and liturgical, of the church. This is in keeping with the nature and practice of priesthood from the very beginning, no matter how obscured this has been for various reasons, including the inadequacy of the term priest itself. In biblical terminology, a priest is really a bishop, and in contemporary terminology, a bishop is a manager.

Had this understanding been more explicitly operative in the history of the church, at least some of the problems experienced by priests today could have been prevented. Inadequate understanding of one’s position necessarily complicates not only one’s performance, but also one’s self-esteem. Recall the poster mentioned above: And what does the priest do the other six days of the week?

The proper understanding of the priest-pastor as manager would also be conducive to another improvement in the life and performance of the priest and of pastoral care in general. A serious failure in the pastoral care of the church has been and remains the lack of adequate accountability and supervision of the priest personnel. A few years ago I mentioned this to a classmate who is also one of my best friends. I emphasized the negative effect on pastoral care and the members of the church. He agreed, but immediately emphasized the equally negative effect on many priests. To which I could only say amen. At a recent seminary reunion, he mentioned that a classmate was thinking of retiring soon. He wondered whether that classmate realized how much good he had done, how great had been his performance. The answer is easynot if he depended on the system to inform him of this.

I freely concede that a change in name and terminology does not guarantee a change in policy and practice. I also acknowledge that there are good and bad managers, good and bad management systems, and good and bad evaluation systems. But maybe the worst is simply the absence of such. It is time to recognize that priests are other Christs precisely as C.E.O.’s in the pastoral care of the orderliness of the church. That is their vocation. That is their job.

Models of Priesthood

kubernesis: leader, pilot, captain of a ship
presbyter: ambassador, envoy, delegate, elder
hegoumenos: guide, leader, governor, teacher
poimen: shepherd, pastor, to tend/look after a flock
oikonomos: steward, administrator, entrusted with, responsible for
proistamenos: ruler, manager, leader, official, ringleader, captain, president, steward, governor

The Rev. Robert Kress is a semi-retired priest of the diocese of Evansville, Ind. He currently resides in Louisville, Ky., and teaches part time at Spalding University in continuing education programs.

Comments

Dennis M. Daily | 12/14/2008 - 12:09am
It is interesting, all these years later to see critiques of Fr. Robert Kress's story. I count myself fortunate that Fr. Kress was my high school religion teacher. He had just returned from seminary in Austria. Older members of the parish thought of him as a "revolutionary," far too avant garde in his sermons for our conservative congregation. He had spent several years with many top-notch thinkers who were preparing for the Second Vatican Council. We loved his youthful exuberance and his love -- though to some a little stilted -- of the Church. We called him "Super Father" and even made him a plaque with a big "K" where the "S" in Superman is usually seen. What wonderful memories. Thanks for posting his stories. Dennis
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F. T. Murray | 1/26/2007 - 2:55pm
In his article, the Rev. Robert Kress justifiably identifies lack of adequate responsibility and supervision of the priest as serious structural defects in our Catholic Church (3/11). The priest can compensate for this critical lack by building into his ministry feedback on his own behavior and performance. To a limited extent he can obtain this orally by simply asking for it.

Unfortunately, most of the faithful, because of the hyper-sacralized status the priest still enjoys, would balk at telling a priest what he could do more of and what he could avoid doing. But an anonymous written survey makes the laity more comfortable with giving feedback. Such a mechanism has already begun to appear in some parishes.

(Rev) Patrick J. McLaughlin | 1/26/2007 - 2:51pm
I enjoyed “The Priest-Pastor as C.E.O.” (3/11), by the Rev. Robert Kress. Given the current sexual abuse catastrophe in Boston and elsewhere, there may be another role the parish priest is called to assume. At present the laity are very disappointed, discouraged and outraged at Cardinal Bernard Law, and they do not trust where their money is going when it is addressed to the chancery. On the other hand, the people are very supportive (generally) of their local priests who have received letters, phone messages, loving gestures from parishioners outside the church and even from non-Catholics on the street. This puts the parish priest in the unusual position of being the local mediator of credibility between the people and the bishop. He has become the bridge-builder between the bishop and the people. The term pontifex comes to mind. As local representative of the bishop, this fits well into the identification of the diocesan priest in his relation to the diocesan bishop. The bishop is the pontifex in the diocese.

It is a unique time for a priest. Parish priests have the opportunity gently to encourage their bishop to recognize that the “signs of the times” have touched us again. It is time for Vatican III. The sad phenomenon of Boston is not unique in the country, nor is it limited to our national borders. I would hope that my own bishop, Cardinal Law, would take the lead. No one better than he has experienced the bewilderment, the betrayal and the anger felt by the people. He had five two-hour “listening” sessions with his priests followed by a huge, six-hour gathering of lay leaders at the World Trade Center in Boston. At the conclusion of that day, he humbly admitted that he was part of the problem and asked if he could not also be part of the solution. Several told him point blank that he should resign. The problems presented to him were systemic arrogance, secrecy and unaccountable power within the leadership of the Catholic Church. All this has to change, said the people. The selection of bishops, their accountability to the local community, the position of women in the church and the question of their ordination, the ordination of married men and the opening of the financial records for the community’s scrutiny have to be addressed. It is time for a new council and a new Code of Canon Law.

What a wonderful time to be a parish priest and to share in the bishop’s role of pontifex!

Linda Ann Ballard, O.S.C. | 1/26/2007 - 2:48pm
God save us from longing for a church where “orderliness” and appropriate managerial skills become the defining quality of the ordained (3/11). To the extent that we must function as an organization (pay bills, mow grass, repair plumbing), laypeople are simply better qualified, better educated and more experienced for the task. Since baptism calls all people to the task of maintaining and expanding the body of Christ for the world, it makes better theological sense and better stewardship if the priesthood of believers is called to accountability in their areas of dynamic expertise. Managerial/financial areas would be better handled by lay administrators working with the ordained for the parish or diocese.

The term pastoral care has become so vague as to be less than helpful. The people of God are called to care for one another. Baptism is the charism essential for prayer, love and support—not ordination. The work of caring, by right, is the responsibility of the people of God if they are actually going to live as the people of God.

David H. Powell | 1/26/2007 - 2:46pm
The Rev. Robert Kress’s recent article, “Priest-Pastor as C.E.O.” (3/11), was certainly one of the most insightful I have read on the present priest crisis. I was most appreciative of the way he wove into his article the profound views of Karl Rahner on priesthood in the modern church, especially his insights on the priest as a connecting person. I hope that many seminaries and courses on priesthood reflect on and request reprints of Father Kress’s brief but profound piece of writing. Most important, I hope it finds its way into the hands of many an overworked, overwhelmed priest who needs a scholarly but down-to-earth treatment of what the ordained priesthood really is in these winter days of the Roman system. Finally, I hope that this article will stimulate others of its kind in response, and perhaps further pieces by Father Kress himself.

Anne Bartol, O.S.C. | 1/26/2007 - 2:45pm
I disagree with the point of view indicated in the article “The Priest-Pastor as C.E.O.” (3/11). The priest’s “job” is not to maintain the orderliness of the church; his vocation is to bring the people, his flock, to Christ. Calling the priest a manager and training him as one would bring undue emphasis on the financial bottom line (the foremost concern of any manager) to the detriment of his more important role as another Christ, offering spiritual help, compassion and support to his parishioners.

Lucy Fuchs | 1/26/2007 - 2:43pm
I found many things to disagree with in the article “The Priest-Pastor as C.E.O.” (3/11). A C.E.O. is the last thing a pastor should be. Priests are far too prone to spend their time doing administrative work that could better be left to the lay ministers of the parish.

What we need in our church is more spiritual leadership. I know that priests do much more than celebrate Mass, but most of them complain that they never have enough time, for example, to prepare their Sunday sermons as they would like. God knows how much we need better sermons, considering that most Catholics do not read America or any other Catholic magazine, and the number of people taking Scripture or other classes is small. The Sunday sermon is their sole source of spiritual education and encouragement. With the lower number of priests and the fact that some parishes must share priests, spiritual counseling or personal advice or visits from priests when one is sick are getting scarce.

We certainly do not want a monastic model for our priests, but I have yet to see one who acts like a monk. What they do often act like is a C.E.O., worrying about the budget, engaging in fund-raising, and at times even micromanaging. I much prefer the pastor, the shepherd. Shepherds may have been disdained in Jesus’ time, but it was an image he chose, even to the point of saying that the Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep. I can’t imagine a C.E.O. giving his life for his sheep. Look at what happened with Enron.

Thomas P. Sweetser, S.J. | 1/26/2007 - 2:35pm
Is “Priest-Pastor as C.E.O” (3/11) the best model? I don’t think so. Nor is manager the best image. “Leader” is the better term. I define priest-pastor as the leader who is to be “the bearer of the dream” and “the instigator of change.” This is a much better ideal for a pastor. “Bearer of the dream” means that the pastor plays a critical role in keeping the vision and dream of what the parish could be before the minds and hearts of the leaders and people. This is not the pastor’s dream alone. It is a shared dream of many, but the pastor (and staff) keeps this dream alive in the parish. “Instigator of change” means challenging parishioners to grow in an awareness of God’s call to holiness and service. The pastor keeps urging the people not to settle for the status quo or to become complacent with what is, but to seek for what could be. Others on the staff and in leadership positions, of course, participate in this push for change. If pastors saw their role as this kind of leader, then others could do the managing and administering.

(Rev.) Joseph C. Doyle | 1/26/2007 - 2:30pm
Thank you for the insightful article by the Rev. Robert Kress on the priest-pastor (3/11). I have found the model of the “overseer” to be a useful tool for encouraging pastors to delegate responsibilities to qualified members of the parish. This frees the pastor to be about the equally important work of articulating and maintaining a vision in both pastoral and liturgical contexts.

(Msgr.) Vincent Rush | 1/26/2007 - 3:45pm
I was surprised to see the number of letters critical of The Rev. Robert Kress’s article “The Priest-Pastor as C.E.O” (3/11). As pastor of a 4,300-household parish with 16 professional staff members and a $1.5 million annual budget, I don’t know of any other effective way to imagine or to do my job. I write this on Good Friday, having done almost no work of preparation for the triduum other than on my homilies. The director of worship, the pastoral vicars, the adult catechumenate directors, the stewardship director and the business manager need only the lightest of occasional touches from me to coordinate their work so that we will once again have powerful, prayerful and (I hope) transforming ritual prayer.

This, as I see it, is the pastor/C.E.O.’s job: to be a cheerleader for the vision and mission of the parish, to coordinate the work of other talented people, to ensure that good systems are in place so that all the people of the parish can work together, and to do the (few) tasks for which he alone is uniquely qualified. Parishioners are often surprised to get a response from me to a phone message or an e-mail within a few hours, expecting that my desk is piled with work. But it’s not; an excellent staff does that, and I can be in personal touch whenever there’s a need.

A few years ago Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said that pastors of large parishes would have to start to act toward their parishes the way bishops do toward a diocese in order not to exhaust themselves. I believe he got it exactly right. At least in corporate-sized parishes, the pastor’s spiritual care is most often exercised through hiring and coaching good people, caring for the systems of the parish and having the time to think about and preach about the big picture of the parish’s work for the Gospel. Is it our individualist bias that keeps us from imagining that contemporary pastoral care by pastors will often be exercised through attention to systems rather than through one-to-one contact?

Theresa Byrne, O.P. | 1/26/2007 - 3:03pm
I was amazed to see the cover of your March 11 edition. And more amazed to read the article by the Rev. Robert Kress, entitled “The Pastor as C.E.O.” After 50 years in church ministry, I have experienced only three parishes where I could say the vast majority of parishioners were committed to living the Gospel of Jesus and building the kingdom. In these parishes, baptism was understood and lived. Eucharist was celebrated and lived. The people were “bread broken” and “wine shared.” They washed feet and healed wounds. There was an energy, a peace, a joy and a call to ministry, that reached out and touched lives. Good liturgy was a top priority.

How did this come about? The priest-pastors were pastors, true spiritual leaders. The business roles in the parish belonged to staff, the nonordained. The pastors were not C.E.O.’s. In these parishes the staff had three prayer days/reflection days a year and two study days. The spiritual development of the staff was a priority, and the people recognized the benefits. Because of the parish vision, the council, commissions and committees worked effectively. The spiritual formation of adults was a priority.

Parishes where the pastors were or tried to be C.E.O.’s showed all the signs of lifeless, routine religious practice. The sacramental life of the community lacked the transforming power that good liturgy provides. May our parishes be blessed with true spiritual leaders and leave C.E.O’s to the corporate world.

Frank M. Zaveral, CPA (Retired) | 3/23/2002 - 4:27pm
The most striking line in "The Pastor as CEO" by Robert Kress (America, March 11) is "they didn't tell us about this in the seminary!" which is exactly why nearly 20 years ago I recommended a seminar about accounting and understanding financial statements to the Gregorian University in Rome. Response was very negative. Not only should such seminars be held at the Greg, where future church leaders are trained, but in every seminary. How can one be expected to run a parish, a diocese, the Vatican, without at least rudimentary exposure to management, accounting, and other tools of enterprise? It can be done, but with additional strain, as Kress points out, which unnecessarily burdens those in parish and other administrative positions (as if there are not enough other stressors in priestly life).

Vincent Rush | 3/29/2002 - 12:57pm
I was surprised to see the number of letters critical of Fr. Robert Kress’s article “The Priest-Pastor as CEO” (3/11). As pastor of a 4300-household parish with sixteen professional staff and a $1.5 million annual budget, I don’t know of any other effective way to imagine or to do my job. I write this on Good Friday, having done almost no work of preparation for the Triduum other than on my homilies; the director of worship, the pastoral vicars, the RCIA directors, the stewardship director, and the business manager need only the lightest of occasional touches from me to coordinate their work so that we will once again have powerful, prayerful, and (I hope) transforming ritual prayer.

This, as I see it, is the pastor/CEO’s job: to be a cheerleader for the vision and mission of the parish, to coordinate the work of other talented people, to ensure that good systems are in place so that all the people of the parish can work together, and to do the (few) tasks for which he alone is uniquely qualified. Parishioners are often surprised to get a response from me to a phone message or an e-mail within a few hours, expecting that my desk is piled with work. But it’s not; an excellent staff does that, and I can be in personal touch whenever there’s a need.

A few years ago Archbishop Pilarczyk said that pastors of large parishes would have to start to act toward their parishes like bishops do toward a diocese in order not to exhaust themselves. I believe he got it exactly right: At least in corporate-sized parishes, the pastor’s spiritual care is most often exercised through hiring and coaching good people, caring for the systems of the parish, and having the time to think about and preach about the big picture of the parish’s work for the Gospel. Is it our individualist bias that keeps us from imagining that contemporary pastoral care by pastors will often be exercised through attention to systems rather than through one to one contact?

Jim Carney | 3/13/2002 - 6:47am
The skills of a manager/C.E.O may offer some assistance to a priest as he carries out his duties but I believe a clear understanding of his duties is of most importance. Jesus instructs his followers, his disciples and anyone else who listens to him that there is nothing more important than seeking God's kingship in one's life. It would seem that keeping that goal clear would be more important than any particular managerial strategy towards reaching that goal. I believe that a priest who may stumble or stagger in the pursuit of that goal is still doing more to bring God's kingdom in our lives than a priest who is organized and well ordered but has lost sight of the goal.

Jim Carney | 3/13/2002 - 6:45am
The skills of a manager/C.E.O may offer some assistance to a priest as he carries out his duties but I believe a clear understanding of his duties is of most importance. Jesus instructs his followers, his disciples and anyone else who listens to him that there is nothing more important than seeking God's kingship in one's life. It would seem that keeping that goal clear would be more important than any particular managerial strategy towards reaching that goal.

Thomas P. Sweetser, SJ | 3/8/2002 - 6:15am
Is "Priest-Pastor As C.E.O" the best model? I don't think so. Nor is "manager" the best image, either. "Leader" is the better term. I define priest-pastor as the leader who is to be "the bearer of the dream," and "the instigator of change." This is a much better ideal for a pastor. "Bearer of the dream" means that the pastor plays a critical role in keeping the vision and dream of what the parish could be before the minds and hearts of the leaders and people. This in not the pastor's dream alone. It is a shared dream of many, but the pastor (and staff) keep this dream alive in the parish. "Instigator of change" means challenging parishioners to grow in an awareness of God's call to holiness and service. The pastor keeps urging the people not to settle for the status quo or to become complacent with what is, rather than seeking for what could be. Others on the staff and in leadership positions, of course, participate in this push for change. If pastors saw their role as this kind of leader, then others could do the managing and administering.

Frank M. Zaveral, CPA (Retired) | 3/23/2002 - 4:27pm
The most striking line in "The Pastor as CEO" by Robert Kress (America, March 11) is "they didn't tell us about this in the seminary!" which is exactly why nearly 20 years ago I recommended a seminar about accounting and understanding financial statements to the Gregorian University in Rome. Response was very negative. Not only should such seminars be held at the Greg, where future church leaders are trained, but in every seminary. How can one be expected to run a parish, a diocese, the Vatican, without at least rudimentary exposure to management, accounting, and other tools of enterprise? It can be done, but with additional strain, as Kress points out, which unnecessarily burdens those in parish and other administrative positions (as if there are not enough other stressors in priestly life).

Vincent Rush | 3/29/2002 - 12:57pm
I was surprised to see the number of letters critical of Fr. Robert Kress’s article “The Priest-Pastor as CEO” (3/11). As pastor of a 4300-household parish with sixteen professional staff and a $1.5 million annual budget, I don’t know of any other effective way to imagine or to do my job. I write this on Good Friday, having done almost no work of preparation for the Triduum other than on my homilies; the director of worship, the pastoral vicars, the RCIA directors, the stewardship director, and the business manager need only the lightest of occasional touches from me to coordinate their work so that we will once again have powerful, prayerful, and (I hope) transforming ritual prayer.

This, as I see it, is the pastor/CEO’s job: to be a cheerleader for the vision and mission of the parish, to coordinate the work of other talented people, to ensure that good systems are in place so that all the people of the parish can work together, and to do the (few) tasks for which he alone is uniquely qualified. Parishioners are often surprised to get a response from me to a phone message or an e-mail within a few hours, expecting that my desk is piled with work. But it’s not; an excellent staff does that, and I can be in personal touch whenever there’s a need.

A few years ago Archbishop Pilarczyk said that pastors of large parishes would have to start to act toward their parishes like bishops do toward a diocese in order not to exhaust themselves. I believe he got it exactly right: At least in corporate-sized parishes, the pastor’s spiritual care is most often exercised through hiring and coaching good people, caring for the systems of the parish, and having the time to think about and preach about the big picture of the parish’s work for the Gospel. Is it our individualist bias that keeps us from imagining that contemporary pastoral care by pastors will often be exercised through attention to systems rather than through one to one contact?

Jim Carney | 3/13/2002 - 6:47am
The skills of a manager/C.E.O may offer some assistance to a priest as he carries out his duties but I believe a clear understanding of his duties is of most importance. Jesus instructs his followers, his disciples and anyone else who listens to him that there is nothing more important than seeking God's kingship in one's life. It would seem that keeping that goal clear would be more important than any particular managerial strategy towards reaching that goal. I believe that a priest who may stumble or stagger in the pursuit of that goal is still doing more to bring God's kingdom in our lives than a priest who is organized and well ordered but has lost sight of the goal.

Jim Carney | 3/13/2002 - 6:45am
The skills of a manager/C.E.O may offer some assistance to a priest as he carries out his duties but I believe a clear understanding of his duties is of most importance. Jesus instructs his followers, his disciples and anyone else who listens to him that there is nothing more important than seeking God's kingship in one's life. It would seem that keeping that goal clear would be more important than any particular managerial strategy towards reaching that goal.

Thomas P. Sweetser, SJ | 3/8/2002 - 6:15am
Is "Priest-Pastor As C.E.O" the best model? I don't think so. Nor is "manager" the best image, either. "Leader" is the better term. I define priest-pastor as the leader who is to be "the bearer of the dream," and "the instigator of change." This is a much better ideal for a pastor. "Bearer of the dream" means that the pastor plays a critical role in keeping the vision and dream of what the parish could be before the minds and hearts of the leaders and people. This in not the pastor's dream alone. It is a shared dream of many, but the pastor (and staff) keep this dream alive in the parish. "Instigator of change" means challenging parishioners to grow in an awareness of God's call to holiness and service. The pastor keeps urging the people not to settle for the status quo or to become complacent with what is, rather than seeking for what could be. Others on the staff and in leadership positions, of course, participate in this push for change. If pastors saw their role as this kind of leader, then others could do the managing and administering.