Core of priest’s calling: listening to laity

by Fletcher Lowe

fr-bausch-by-Catherine-Love

Tom Roberts in the January 22, 2016 edition of the National Catholic Reporter shares the story of the Rev. William Bausch, a New Jersey Roman catholic priest.

As a young priest in the 1960s, while serving at St. Joseph Church in Keyport, NJ, Fr. Bausch was assigned to be the chaplain to a Christian Family Action group (known as Christian Family Movement in most dioceses). One of the rules of the lay movement required him to be silent until the meeting ended.

“I remember that they made me sit on my hands because if I can’t use my hands, I can’t talk. I was never so humiliated and humbled in my life,” he said …. “Not because I had to sit on my hands but because, forced to be silent for two years, I had to listen, really listen, to their stories of how, day after day, they struggled to be good Christians. Month after month, I listened to them struggling inwardly with shady practices at the company at which they worked, the politics of the workplace, the compromises they were forced to make, the fear of losing their jobs, difficulties with children — school, rebellion, drugs — trying to make ends meet, hardly ever getting a vacation, trying not to lose faith in hard times, struggles with prayer, not feeling God’s presence, doubts.”

Through his tenure as chaplain, said Bausch, “I knew I had found my priesthood’s core: that they, the laity, would teach me, not only the other way around.”

This “profound sense of reverence and respect” for the lives and gifts of laypeople deeply affected his approach to being a pastor. “I made it clear to the people from day one that I was there to promote and call forth the gifts and charisms they already had, to teach them who they were as a people of God, to support and learn from them….”

Blogger’s questions:

  • To the clergy: how might you facilitate listening to lay folks share their daily life stories?
  • To lay folks: how might you facilitate your clergy to hear your daily life stories?
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