So Your Priest Was Reassigned – Now What?

It happens. Especially for rookie priests fresh off of holy orders. They spend an average of two years at three different parishes before eventually becoming pastor of their own parish after six years.

At my parish, we recently said goodbye to Father Jonathan, who I often joked had been on borrowed time. As things worked out, his first assignment at St. William was an incredible four years. I feel like our parish in that time became closer knit, but that might also been in part due to other factors. Father Dean and Father Jonathan both came on board when Father Joel moved out of state to a new assignment. I could also say the parish started to feel smaller as a result of my own decision to actually get out into parish life and start serving through various ministries but, somehow I don’t think my observation is restricted to just my experience. I think others in my parish would say similar things, that the vibe of the parish shifted after both Father Jonathan and Father Dean’s arrival.

Each year, dioceses shuffle priests from one parish to another. Our parish has been home to a steady stream of rookie priests and with Father Dean leading the charge as of the past four years, these young men have been entrusted with some wonderful responsibilities and experiences that they take with them to their new assignments.

Short of considering bribing the bish into keeping Father Jonathan any longer – and to be serious here for a moment, we all knew it was time for the next chapter, and to want to keep Father J would have been selfish – I started conjuring up a new project in my mind. Friends who know me well know I am constantly looking for my next project. I decided to enlist the help of friends around the parish to do the following and it’s something that I offer as a suggestion for you as well to do for your priests.

I remember reading a letter some years ago from a mother of a priest. She submitted it to my mother-in-law’s newsletter, Les Femmes. In the Fall 2007 newsletter, the mother encouraged parishioners to please send glowing letters to the diocese to let the bishop know of the positive impact the priest has made on your faith, family, etc. She went on to say that more often than not, the diocese hears more from people who complain or have something negative to say about a priest, especially when they speak the truths of the Faith i.e. contraception, abortion, the HHS Mandate, etc. I figured if we couldn’t keep our priest, we could at least send him to his new assignment with some heartfelt letters from parishioners. I added to it by requesting that friends and parishioners make two copies of their letters, one set for the bishop and one set for the priest to keep as a momento of his time at our parish. I have been honored to do this twice now and hope to make it a tradition of our parish before long.


My challenge to you: If your priest has been recently reassigned and he has helped you grow in the Faith, challenging you when you needed it, or has just been a wonderful influence and family friend, please take the time to let your bishop know. You don’t even have to wait until they move to their new assignment. Get started writing today.

6 Replies to “So Your Priest Was Reassigned – Now What?”

  1. My parish just said goodbye to our pastor after 13 years. We did something similar but the cards and well wishes were just given to him. Don’t think any of us thought to let the Bishop know as well. It’s been almost a month and wondering if he has been able to read all the notes and cards.

    As much as it was hard to see him go, it was time for both he and the parish. He had come to us at a mournful time and challenging time. Our former pastor had just past away and we were in the phase of expanding our Church building. We were his first parish so he had many mistakes and growing to do. He took the expansion into a different direction that would save our parish hall than the original plan had stated. He also brought so much enthusiasm, encouragement and life into the future of the parish. Focus was brought to the young. Education was expanded to all ages. Sure, we lost some activities and groups but we also gained in new ones. Kids and parents loved him. People vied for his attention. He had to have been our most popular pastor.

    Three years after his arrival he was named pastor of another neighboring parish. Now he had two and extra people to shepherd. The challenge was to keep each separate yet blend together. It took its toll on him as it would anyone. In the past couple of years we started to become stagnant. His personal life changed with the death of his parents in less than a year. He lost his bearings as one does when grieving. He is, afterall, human and goes through the same emotions lay people do. It was always said that wasn’t good to have the same pastor for a long time because the challenges and growth stop for both the priest and the people. It was his wish to leave for the good of both our future and his.

    We now have a new pastor who is also the youngest we’ve had. Again, we are his first parishes. He comes to us from another country and his accent adds another dimension. So far he’s been well received with both parents and most importantly the kids. His plans for the parishes will bring about new spiritual growth and the same outlook for a bright and strong future. I for one look forward to his guidance and leadership. Maybe I won’t wait until he leaves us to let my Bishop know how much he has brought to us.

  2. My priest just got reassigned (my priest, as if he only belonged to our family). I had the pleasure of meeting with the Bishop of our diocese under other pretexts but used that opportunity to gush about what an impact he’s had on our lives. The Bishop was so humbled. He said he rarely (to your comments) hears the positive so it was heartwarming for him to know how great we feel this priest is. Interestingly, I wrote about this priest who we lovingly call, Father Heaven. Thanks for this!

  3. Martina, thanks so much for your kind words! The box of letters was a wonderful gift that was such a blessing to me as I left Saint William. God bless you and your family.

  4. yes yes!! WRITE the Bishop. All they get is complaints. Petty complaints like they have to sing the Our Father now and they’re UPSET!!!

  5. If a priest is reassigned, can parishioners have a petition to have him stay? He does not want to leave…this is where he wanted to retire, and he was born and raised here..Would the Bishop have a say? It seems to have come directly from the Order.

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