When I was in seminary, my uncle used to tell me that the priesthood is a great job because priests only work on Sundays. After ordination, I can remember spending fifteen minutes trying to convince one of my aunts that priests normally celebrate Mass every day of the week, not just on Sundays and that on weekends many priests celebrate five Masses. Let’s be honest, some laypeople think that priests, especially their own, don’t work very hard.
What do I do all day?
The three main duties that a pastor has are to (1) to teach, (2) to sanctify himself and his people and (3) to govern his parishes. Please let me explain how I try to live these out in the context of these parishes in a 72 hour work week.
As regards teaching, there is much more than meets the eye. The most obvious ways that I teach are in the Sunday homily, leading book and Bible studies, preaching parish missions, writing bulletin notes, appointments for preparation to receive sacraments like baptism, confirmation and marriage as well as one-on-one or couples counseling. I am also on the faculty of Saint Joseph College. Last year, I taught two college-level theology classes in Muncie, donating my salary to the parish cluster. Moreover, I am a doctoral student taking more than half of a full-time doctoral course load at the University of Dayton. On average, I try to spend around 20 hours a week on work on my doctorate. I would guess that I spend at least thirty hours a week working on teaching.
For me, the most important part of being a priest involves sanctifying. I try to fulfill this duty through my contact with God and trying to be an instrument of helping others experience His love. Every day I celebrate Mass at least once. On Sunday, I celebrate Mass three times. I visit all of our around 25 shut-ins at least twice a year. When people are in the hospital in a county that is contiguous to Randolph County, I visit them when they request it. I visit the Randolph County jail as needed. I also hear confessions before and after every Sunday Mass. I do funerals and baptisms as needed. Outside of Mass, I set a daily goal to spend 2-2 and one-half hours in prayer. I see a spiritual director in Monticello, Indiana, once a month to go to confession and talk about the state of my spiritual life. Canon law mandates that I take a week every year outside of the parish for spiritual exercises at an annual retreat. I spend at least thirty hours a week being directly involved in the office of sanctifying.
My least favorite part of being a priest is governing the parishes, which also includes going to diocesan meetings. In an average week, I drive about 200-250 miles on parish business, which corresponds to about 4 hours a week of work-related driving. I skip more diocesan meetings than I should, but I know that it is very important that I attend as many as possible. I preside at pastoral council meetings once a month and each parish’s finance council quarterly. I have the responsibility to supervise seven parish employees (three of which work 20 or more hours) and all parish volunteers. I make sure that the physical plant at both parishes and the cemetery is in good condition. Often this involves finding people to repair or maintain things. Sometimes I just do it myself. Finally, in small parishes like these, I do innumerable miscellaneous tasks that hired staff members would do in larger parishes. I would love to be able to limit my weekly time spent governing to twelve hours a week.
My normal schedule involves working 12 hours a day, six days a week. Sometimes, I have to work on my day of rest when something unforeseen comes up or I have fallen behind on doctoral work. Besides a weekly day of rest, I take around twenty days a year outside of the parish for rest and relaxation or catching up on doctoral work. A priest reaches retirement age at 75.
A forty hour a week job with two weeks of vacation involves working 2000 hours a year. The schedule I have described above adds up to at least 3600 hours of work a year.
Now you know what I do all day.