When I think about vision, I think about the ability to see. But there is another, greater, meaning that includes looking into the future, anticipating challenges and trying to come up with logical solutions.
Hand in hand with this latter vision goes common sense. Any solution we envision for the future has to make sense. There is no waiting for a magical answer – an answer that will take years to happen.
The Diocese of Fresno has lost its ability to come up with a solution to the priest shortage plaguing the entire country for years. The ability of church leaders to think outside the box is dead. They have also lost all common sense, too.
They believe all answers must include a priest. They refuse to look to an educated laity who can take over some of the administrative duties so that our priests can be the sacramental ministers we want them to be.
A quick look around the country will find women and deacons in the role of administrators. And those dioceses, though often struggling, are surviving. We cannot wait for more people to choose religious vocations, nor can we continue to work our existing priests into early graves.
The pastor in Los Banos was moved – a week before Christmas – to solve a problem in another parish that has been going on for months. Adding to the lack of common sense, the priest must drive 200 miles round trip every week to take care of the administrative duties remaining in Los Banos.
Who is making these idiotic decisions?
Where is the compassion and love that Jesus asked of his apostles? Saint Paul was able to minister to many communities by using local, talented and gifted men and (yes!) women to keep the church alive. That was how he solved the priest shortage in his time.
Has the diocese of Fresno closed its eyes to using today’s talented and gifted men and women? Is the diocese of Fresno smarter or holier than Saint Paul?
The document on the laity of Vatican II reminds us the Sacrament of Baptism joins us together in the priesthood of Jesus. Why then are we being ignored? Why are our priests being overworked and being asked to undertake such strenuous duties when the laity is capable and more than willing to exercise their gifts of Baptism?
I am a life-long Catholic who has served in parishes in seven states. I have devoted my life to serving my church. I have seen great things happen in parishes which call upon the skills of parishioners and putting them in key leadership roles: accountants to keep the books, CEOs to help manage the church and plan its future, contractors who help plan and execute construction and repairs, teachers who mentor volunteer catechists.
It pains me to see my diocese struggling and dedicated priests so overworked when there are so many good lay Catholics who could contribute to the health of each diocese. I am hoping Bishop Armando Ochoa and the priests who advise and work with him will take a new and wiser approach to parish leadership.
The leaders of the Diocese of Fresno can bring vision and common sense back to our parishes. And they can have healthier priests at the same time.
Joan Spevak has been involved in Catholic parish ministry for more than 40 years, as teacher, director of religious education, liturgist and music minister. She is a member of St. Joseph’s Parish in Los Banos.