The Power of Priestly Solidarity
A simple in-house ritual helps priests bolster each other's spiritual lives and ministries.
"Parishioners have commented on the positive affect of seeing their priests praying together."
Very Rev. Chad Wilhelm, Rector, St Mary's Cathedral, Fargo, ND
The need it meets
To counteract the tendency to an overly independent spirit in the diocesan priesthood and increase spiritual, human, and pastoral solidarity among priests in a local area.
Where it came from
Fr. Chad has been a priest for 13 years and pastor of several parishes, including currently serving as the Rector of the Fargo Cathedral. He saw a need for the diocesan priests praying together, whether priests who serve together in a parish or in neighboring parishes.
How it works
Each day before supper (the exact time will vary according to your schedule), I and my associates pray the Liturgy of the Hours together in church, taking turns leading the prayers. We invite any visiting priests and have a standing invitation for priests in nearby parishes.
Over time, we have added some devotional practices such as seasonal novenas or litanies.
Following prayer, we have supper prepared by one of the priests. We follow the Rule of St. Benedict: work and prayer. Praying and eating together improve relationships and build up the Church; neither grudges nor anger can overtake your soul toward your brother.
As Dean of the Deanery, I also try to have the priests come together monthly for:
- 3 pm Holy Hour (Daytime office, Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet
- 4 pm Business meeting
- 6 pm Evening prayer
- 6:15 pm Eat
This has been a profound gift as it has helped priests overcome mistrust or labels based on prejudgments of one another.
For the parish:
- The parishioners see that their priests are praying and working together.
- They then speak about the positive effect such a testimony has on them, which in turn motivates them to pray together as a parish and as individual families.
- As a result, our exhortations to parishioners are more effective and convincing, strengthening the Church.
For the priests:
- We are building a stronger sense of priestly community based on prayer, and spiritual brotherhood has strengthened our own convictions and helped stoke our zeal and energy.
- It brings us together, we are trusting each other more and realizing we are not in competition but need to work together for the Lord.
- The gift of piety is increased in the soul.
The elements that have made this work mostly have to do with attitudes of the heart:
- Dedication to the spiritual life.
- Desire to build relationships with fellow priests and overcome any
- Receiving weekly confession to build up the graces we need.
- Striving for a consistent time to pray together. Trying to make a commitment to this, if not every day, at least a couple times a week. It requires a sacrifice, but the fruits are well worth it.
- Consistently inviting our brother priests from neighboring parishes.
- Pastors must always remember to be a greater example of Christ to
their brother priests, not just to parishioners.
- Remembering that we are all sinners and are in need of Christ's
mercy - therefore showing mercy.
How to implement it
- Encourage your brother priests to pray with you even if at first you are uncomfortable with his presence.
- Choose a time that is followed by the regular evening meal.
- Invite priests from surrounding parishes to join you each day once a week (both for prayer and for dinner).
- Bring up this initiative with the Deanery and priest council.
Fr. Chad Wilhelm is pastor of
St. Mary's Cathedral.