Beyond the altar: Like others who labor, priests hunger for balance between work and play

September 18, 2012

HOUSTON — Between baptisms, confessions, Masses, speaking engagements, retreats, funerals, office meetings and listening to the concerns of the faithful, the priestly life can be a busy one. 

As parish communities prepare for Priesthood Sunday, Oct. 28 — a universal day for priests to give thanks for their vocation and for parishioners to show appreciation for their clergy — the day-long commemoration begs the question, "What would priests enjoy on this day?" 

According to a few Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston priests, time spent in quiet or doing fun hobbies is something they crave.

"When I do get to grab a day here or there, I find it important to be quiet and to be still," said Father Robert Barras, pastor at St. Bernadette Catholic Church. "Sometimes a drive in the country is refreshing. I've recently taken up photography which gets me out of town for longer times to some beautiful places for pictures."

Father Barras said that being on a really good ministry team and being a part of a good and healthy parish community, as well as giving time for prayer and reflection, have made his stress-filled occasions less traumatic. 

"Being reminded that other people are competent and faith-filled and willing to share in the ministry of the Church is a major de-stresser," he said. 
Father Victor Perez, parochial vicar at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, said praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament helps him stay in check, as well as reading a book, running, hiking or biking.

"[For fun] I also like to go out to eat or have a beer with a friend, go to see my sister's family in Katy or my parents and their animals in Bellville, [Texas]," he said.

For Father John Kha Tran, pastor at St. Bartholomew the Apostle Catholic Church, said when he has extra time he devotes it to his garden. 

"I love gardening. That is what I do on my day off as well when I have free time," he said. "I plant my vegetables and eat healthy."

Father Tom Rafferty, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, also releases tension by being one with nature in a different way.

"I enjoy taking a ride on my Harley Davidson Ultra-Glide in the woods around Lake Conroe and Huntsville," he said. 

Concerts at the Pavilion in The Woodlands also supplies a great distraction from the daily grind.

"The best show yet was Carlos Santana," Father Rafferty said. 

Honor your priest Oct. 28

On Oct. 28, parishes nationwide will honor their priests on Priesthood Sunday. Many parishioners will offer rosaries, Mass, Eucharistic adoration or other offerings to show their priests their appreciation.

Father Dat Hoang, Archdiocesan Director of Vocations, said he is hoping parishioners speak to their priests on Priesthood Sunday.

"It's always good to hear good things," Father Hoang said. "When priests hear [good things] it refreshes and strengthens them in their priestly vocation."

The Archdiocesan Office of Vocations is offering an opportunity to help parishioners around the Archdiocese show their appreciation for their priests. Now available at, a parishioner can download a "Celebrate Priesthood Sunday" card to send to their priest from them offering them a "Spiritual Bouquet" of their choice, plus an area to write a personal note.