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Posted March 12, 2013

The Call for a Creative Priesthood

Eugene Hemrick

In a study of priests ordained five to nine years, it was asked how the seminary could prepare students for future challenges the church faces.

The challenges include: 1) how to evangelize better; 2) how to carry on the work of the church with fewer priests; 3) how to work better with the laity.

To meet these challenges, those responding to the survey recommended that seminarians be taught to be more creative and collaborative, and that they learn the skills of empowering others.

Let's look at what is implied here.

During the post-Vatican II era, collaboration in parish matters often began and ended with the pastor's interaction with his assistants. In some places, collaboration was non-existent; the pastor regarded himself, alone, as the one in charge. Nor did priests view it as their role to empower parish lay administrators or extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

Definitely, there was creativity. But it was not stressed the way it is today.

All this has changed, however, leading us to ask what more we need to understand when speaking of the need for increased collaboration, empowerment skills and creativity among our future priests.

Let's focus on creativity.

A classic way to illustrate the patterns of creativity is to construct a circle and then to superimpose lines over it – lines that zigzag around and break through its boundaries.

Less creative people usually operate within defined parameters. They are content to be circumscribed by prescribed procedures for accomplishing a given task.

But creative people look for imaginative ways to break out of old patterns. The creative person comes at a problem with a different set of eyes and a different kind of disposition.

It also should be noted that creative students are more prone to constitute a headache for teachers. Creative students often are looked upon as discipline problems because most teachers don't understand how their minds work.

What does this mean for the church's future?

If we are to attain a more creative priesthood, creative candidates must be recruited. To server such candidates, creative faculties must be recruited as well.

Some may fear that if all this were to happen, ultimately sending a new breed of creative priests into parishes, increased divisions and polarizations in the church would result. What would happen to parishioners who like things the way they are? What will happen to parishioners who are creative by nature and welcome changes?

Yet, historically speaking, if we had not had creative people at an earlier date the church would not have the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the lay administrators of parishes and the participations of the laity that we see today. And if we did not have people who want to keep things more or less as they are, we might not have the stability we presently enjoy.

Where does this leave us?

Each individual is characterized by many qualities, not just one like creativity. I believe we need to look not only for creative people, but people who have a sense of church unity as well.

Creativity we definitely need. The division it can sometimes cause by seeking incessant change we can do without!

What we need for balance is a corps of creative priests who use their creativity to bring together the creative and not-so-creative: creative priests who espouse a team effort and constantly are working at unity.