Ministry offers spiritual, emotional support to priests

December 24, 2013

HOUSTON — A priest, just like anyone else, has needs, which is why the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has in place a ministry for the pastoral care of priests. 

Ministry to Priests, funded by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), provides the pastoral care, spiritual direction and fraternal support for the priests in the Archdiocese, both diocesan and religious.

Father Isidore Garcia, O.M.I, along with Father Brendan Cahill and Sister Gina Maria Iadanza, MSC, minister to approximately 450 priests, more than half of whom belong to a religious order, serving in various capacities in the Archdiocese. 

Father Cahill, director of the secretariat for clergy formation and chaplaincy that oversees the ministry to priests, handles the administration while Father Garcia and Sister Iadanza tend to more personal needs — Father Garcia for spiritual direction and discernment, among other things, and Sister Iadanza for consultation, support and wellness.

“It’s extremely important to have something like this,” Father Cahill said, referring to St. Charles Borromeo’s admonition for priests to take care of themselves: “… do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.” 

Father Garcia said priests sometimes need someone other than a peer or colleague to share their problems with, to lean on for spiritual direction and reconciliation or to help out when they are sick. 

“Sometimes it’s the ordinary problems, and they’ll come to me to sound out ideas,” Father Garcia said. “‘A problem shared is a problem half solved,’ as they say.”

This ministry collaborates with the Ongoing Formation of Priests Committee under the leadership of Episcopal Vicar Father Norbert Maduzia and Father Sean Horrigan, vicar forane, through events such as the bi-annual Priest Convocation, which promotes fraternity and develops pastoral formation. 

There are annual retreats, the new pastor’s workshop, the international priest program, the five-year priest mentor program for newly ordained priests and priests’ day of prayer. 

The ministry also coordinates sabbaticals, professional development and ongoing education opportunities. 

“Priests have great responsibilities, especially with the large multicultural parishes,” said Sister Iadanza, who brings four decades of experience as a nurse, counselor and administrator to her role as associate director of the secretariat for clergy formation and chaplaincy. “We help support them through stresses and changes connected with priestly ministry. 

“Priests today deal with so many issues on a daily basis, but they also need to attend to themselves,” Sister Iadanza said. 

While the majority of priests serve in the Archdiocese’s 146 parishes, there are many others doing God’s work teaching at the seminary, in hospitals, chaplaincies and in administration. But both Father Garcia and Sister Iadanza said parish work can be particularly stressful.

“The bigger the parish the more stressful it can be,” Father Garcia said. “That’s where a priest has to learn to pace himself, look after himself if he’s experiencing stress and find an outlet for stress.”