Young have a ‘stronger sense of priestly identity’
By Damir Govorcin
28 June, 2009
A sea-change is occurring in the Church with a new generation of young people
re-discovering the deeply Catholic dimension of their faith, says Bishop Julian Porteous,
auxiliary Bishop of Sydney.
“World Youth Day is a product that reflects it and nourishes it,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s just World Youth Day itself, but World Youth Day very much opened people’s eyes to what is actually happening in the Church.”
Bishop Porteous says the next generation of priests is going to have a “different orientation” towards the priesthood then previous generations.
“And sometimes older priests find that difficult to grasp,” he said. “I think younger priests have a stronger sense of priestly identity.
“They have a greater appreciation of things like the devotional life of the Church.
“They often have a clear sense of the teaching of the Church and want to be advocates of the teaching in particular of controversial issues.
“They are strongly convinced of and want to promote the Church’s teaching on various moral issues at the present moment.
“Younger priests have a deep discovery of their Catholic faith and particularly the traditions of the faith, and these are the things they want to share and transmit in their priestly ministry.”
In his new book, After the Heart of God, Bishop Porteous examines what sort of priest is needed for the third millennium.
Drawing on his 34 years as a priest and seven years as rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary, Homebush, he discusses the issue in the light of dramatic changes in the cultural and ecclesial landscape in the past 50 years.
The book also looks at the identity, spirituality and pastoral orientation of priests, especially diocesan priests.
After the Heart of God was launched by the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, at St Mary’s Cathedral on June 24. [It will also be launched by Fr John Flader at the Catholic Centre, Lidcombe, on July 15.]
Bishop Porteous said: “I wrote the book as a result of my seven years as rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary, and one of the questions that were always in my mind was what sort of priest is needed for the Church and society of today.
“Writing the book gave me a chance to reflect on my 30 plus years as a priest, my experiences and what I saw as a great change that had taken place in the society and also the Church in that period of time.
“It also gave me the opportunity to reflect on how best priests can go about their priestly ministry today.”
He added: “I did have in mind priests firstly when I was writing the book because I thought it was important to write something more specifically directed to the Australian situation. I thought it was important to have an Australian priest write about the experience of being a priest in Australia.”
Among the many issues examined in the book, Bishop Porteous looks at the living situation of priests.
“Are the living conditions, the circumstances that priests find themselves in now in parishes really the best and what can we do about them? I think that’s really an
important question,” he said.
“For example, when I was first ordained I was in a parish with the parish priest.
“We had a live-in house-keeper; there were formal meals where other priests would be invited.
“There was a greater structure to the way of life of the priest, where as now a lot of structure has disappeared.”
Bishop Porteous added: “Another question that’s important that I discuss in a range of ways is the identity of the priest.
“Lay people are taking more and more roles in parishes – that’s a very good and necessary thing – but it does raise questions of what’s the specific role of the priest and what’s the role of the lay person?
“One of the key things is for priests to deepen the sense of their own identity – who they are as priests.
“And also to be more appreciative of what people need most from priests.
“I think the most distinctive thing priests have to offer people is to assist them in their relationship with God.
“A priest needs to be a man of God, a man of faith, his celebration of the liturgy needs to be as such that it really helps people be drawn closer to God, be spiritually nourished through their liturgical celebrations.
“The priest does need to be a pastor after the heart of Christ.”
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