Friday, November 17, 2006

A day in the life of a parish priest

It's been awhile since I posted on one of my days. Truth is, my days have been pretty hectic for several months. But lately, through the grace of God, things have gotten a little less crazy.

The retired priest in the parish had the school Mass at 8:45, and I had 10 am Mass at the Catholic high school a few miles away -- so that meant the luxury of sleeping a little later today. It was actually my very first Mass at the high school, as I failed to get there all last school year. It was nice seeing many of my own parishioners, and they laughed when I said, at the end of Mass, "See, your pastor will find you!"

After that, I had an appointment with a parishioner, at his home. He wanted a visit, the sacrament of confession, and to take me to lunch. Well, I got back a little early, so I stopped at the grocery store to get shampoo and aspirin; then I went to the man's house. He lost his wife this year, and wanted to tell me about her, so we talked for awhile. I arrived at 11:30, as scheduled; we finally headed out for lunch after 1 pm, and I was late getting back to the parish for a 2 pm meeting of the building and maintenance committee.

Only I went to the wrong location for the meeting: I assumed the meeting was at the parish offices, which is at St. Boniface Parish, but the meeting -- of St. Mary's committee, was at the rectory -- at St. Mary.

There's been so much change for both parishes: the offices combined at one location, the other rectory to be solely a residence for the parochial vicar (who is the former pastor) and me. I chose someone from each parish to spearhead the work on each, and it's gone well. I'm especially proud that the costs for the office consolidation have been minimal -- we may spend a total of $7-8,000, for new computers and phones -- and most of that has been donated already. A lot of work has been done for free, by parishioners.

But along the way, it's so important to keep people informed, and that's why we had the maintenance committee meeting -- they were wondering what was up with the rectory/residence plan.

The rectory at St. Mary needs a fair amount of work: a new roof, work on the chimneys (either tuck-pointed or torn down; we'll keep two, tear down the others), gutters, windows, exterior trim; as well as some new carpeting, some fresh paint, and some new blinds and curtains here and there. And a full bath on the first floor, for the parochial vicar, whose health makes climbing stairs very problematic. Well, it all adds up to over $100,000! The vast majority of that is for the structure and first-floor bathroom; and the amount estimated for interior painting and carpet work will probably go down, because we expect many to volunteer for this work, and carpeting and drapes to be donated.

Well, we went through all that with the building committee, and they were glad to hear the details and very helpful.

I finally got to the office after 3 pm, and had several phone calls to return. Then I got to the task I've been working on for some time: whittling down "The Pile."

People wonder what a pastor does? I'll tell you: I move paper around. A great accomplishment comes when the paper goes into the garbage can! Well, I filled my trashcan twice this week! By the time I left the office tonight, at 6:30, I'd finally gotten through my "to read" pile that was toppling over, and my stack of statements from Merrill Lynch that I haven't opened for over a year. (Yes, diocesan priests have IRAs; we will have to rely on Social Security and a check from our diocese, and we reasonably wonder what will become of either or both. Oh, and by the way: we pay taxes too, pretty steep since we are deemed "self-employed" by the government, so we pay both parts of Social Security. I'm not complaining, but some are under the impression we pay no taxes.)

I was so pleased to see all that stuff dealt with, I finally started arranging my office. This may seem strange, but although I've been here 17 months, I still haven't arranged my office. When I arrived in July, 2005, I knew I'd be taking over a second parish and there was so much going on, I just never gave much thought to what my office looked like; plus, I didn't know if the offices would stay there, or move. Thus I've yet to hang up any of my own pictures, or to finish unpacking several boxes. So this evening, I moved a few things around; it not only looks better, it's more my own office. (I hope by the end of the year to have all the books on the shelves and pictures hung.)

Oh, before I left, I checked the answering machine -- it had been unplugged, which meant the message was wiped out. So I figured out how to do it, and recorded a message. (I just called it to be sure it was working. It is.)

So it was pretty nice getting home as early as 6:30; I've been getting in after 9 pm most nights lately. Thanks to Papa Johns, I was able to order a pizza from my Lazyboy (I did get up to answer the door), and I've enjoyed that, some beer, some surfing and some TV news in the backround.


Anonymous said...

A delightful post, almost like a PBS human interest documentary. I almost heard gentle background music, sort of a blend of Gregorian chant and the theme from Ballykissangel...
These commentaries on a pastor's daily life are among your best, Father. Thanks, and best wishes on the rectory remodel. Julia

Anonymous said...

Hello Father;

May God Bless you and your
priesthood always!

I have a quick question, if you
don't mind: I am considering a
vocation to the priesthood; and,
among the many things to consider,
I did one day look into whether
or not priests paid taxes.

I assumed that they did, but then
I found IRS information that
indicated that they did not.
The IRS did have a bit of a
qualifier, though -- the data I
read implied that most, if not
all, priestly salaries would be
less than $11,000 per annum and
would therefore not be taxable.
I assumed from this remark that
very few if any priests actually
pay taxes.

I'm not asking for your salary
information, but I was wondering
if you could shed some light on
the subject for me.

But then, it probably doesn't
really matter very much. Jesus
said that those who follow him
will never lack anything they
need. I've given plenty already
to Caesar, and I'd like to pay
some more now to God.


Sharon said...

You spoke of putting in a full bath for the former parish priest whose health makes climbing stairs problamatic.

When my mother began to experience mobility problems her occupational therapist recommended a shower recess big enough to take a chair so that mum didn't have to climb into the bath and could sit down to shower/be showered.

May I recommend that you get an OT to check out the rectory to make it as user friendly as possible for the parochial vicar.