Seven Nashville priests, relatively new to the job of leading a faith community, recently attended a New Pastor Workshop to learn tools and tips to help run a parish community.
The priests who attended the workshop, held Nov. 3-8 at St Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, were: Father Benjamin Butler, administrator of St. Martha Church in Ashland City and St. Pius X Church in Nashville; Father Jacob Dio, M.S.F.S., pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville; Father Noble Dominic, M.S.F.S., pastor of St. Catherine Church in McMinnville; Father Michael Fye, pastor of St. Ann Church in Nashville; Father Elia Gawarge, director of Mother of Divine Mercy Coptic Catholic Community; Father Gervan Menezes, chaplain of University Catholic in Nashville; and Father Bede Price, pastor of Assumption Church in Nashville.
Father Fye of St. Ann Church had three reasons for attending the workshop, he said. The first was he was asked to by Bishop J. Mark Spalding. But he also wanted to attend for the camaraderie of his brother priests and the opportunity to better understand what he does not know, he said.
The days of the workshop were spent in a classroom, listening to presentations by both clergy and laypeople on the ins and outs of being a pastor.
While talks on building and facilities management, human resources, and parish finances may not fascinate the average parishioner, the experience gave Father Fye a better understanding of just how demanding of a job has been given to him.
“I learned that I can’t do this alone,” he said. “I need the help and expertise of the laypeople who generously volunteer for the church. I’m not here alone, and I have a lot of people helping to check all the boxes.”
Father Menezes, the Chaplain for University Catholic, took home a forward-looking perspective from Baltimore. “I think it helped me to think ahead. To know what to expect in the years to come,” he said.
“Despite not having the title of pastor, what I do every day is indeed the work of a pastor, taking care of the soul, my flock,” said Father Menezes, who leads a ministry for college students. “And so, I think this retreat definitely helped me learn how to better serve my people.”
The workshop was intended specifically for new pastors because becoming the leader of a community can be a difficult transition for many priests.
Both Father Fye and Father Menezes noted the challenges of new leadership. “I think one of my biggest challenges is trying to manage people’s expectations and emotions,” Father Fye said.
While the content of the workshop was more nuts and bolts, the presenters did provide some motivation for taking up the mantle. Father Fye remembered explicitly when one of the presenters stopped and told the pastors, “You’re expected to lead, so lead. You can’t be afraid to lead the parish.”
The workshop provided valuable information for all the pastors, but the priests’ favorite part of the experience was the time they got to spend with each other. The seven Nashville pastors were able to enjoy meals and their free evenings together.
Before the weekend, Father Fye said he considered many of the other pastors acquaintances. Following the workshop, however, he is happy to call them all friends.
Father Menezes felt the same way. “I think that was the better part of the days in Baltimore, to get to know my brother priests. We indeed have great priests and brothers in Nashville.”