Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 19, 2009
Vicar for the clergy shepherds the priests
WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
As vicar for clergy, Fr. Martin Carroll keeps an ongoing liaison with archdiocese's priests.
BY GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Edmonton — The last thing Father Martin Carroll expected when he heard Archbishop Richard Smith state his desire a year ago to appoint a vicar for clergy was that he would be appointed to the post.
After all, the archbishop said the new vicar would have to be filled by the pastor of a smaller city parish and Carroll was the pastor of Edmonton’s largest – St. Theresa.
A few months later, Smith asked Carroll to come to see him.
“I had no idea why he wanted to see me at all,” the priest recalls. But it was then that the archbishop popped the question.
In the summer, Carroll was transferred to St. Matthew Parish on the north side and became the Edmonton Archdiocese’s first vicar for clergy.
Five months later, he is still finding his way and getting oriented in a large, meandering job.
The long and short of it is that the vicar for clergy serves as a liaison between the archbishop and the nearly 100 diocesan priests serving or retired in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
“The bishop is not always available and can’t always give the priests the priority he would like,” Carroll, 66, said in a recent interview.
As vicar for clergy, he tries to keep the archdiocese’s ties with retired priests fresh “so that they remain in the loop.” He also tries to ensure that the needs of young priests are met.
He is the chair of the priests’ personnel committee. He looks at the future need for priests in the archdiocese.
On that issue, he said “When you see a gathering of the priests, you see a lot of grey hair and absence of hair.”
And while the archdiocese has several seminarians right now, “I don’t count my chickens about seminarians until they’ve completed their internship (in a parish).”
The vicar of clergy plans the annual priests assembly in Jasper and the priests retreat. “Those days in Jasper can be wide in scope in terms of what we need.”
Not only do they provide theological updating, they help to develop the human dimension of the priest.
Carroll is on the incardination committee, a group that examines applications from priests who have come to Edmonton from other dioceses and decide they want to stay and become permanent members of the archdiocesan clergy.
While only a couple of priests have been incardinated in the last five years, each application is time-consuming. Detailed reference checks need to be done, both here and in the priest’s diocese of origin. Then there is a two-hour interview with the priest. “We have to ask some difficult questions.”
The vicar also keeps in touch with the vicar for international priests, Father Adam Lech, to ensure the needs of foreign priests who come to serve here are met.
And he works with the director of the permanent diaconate to ensure the deacons are happy.
Then there is the tricky area of dealing with complaints that are occasionally raised about priests. He has to hear the views of the complainants, the priest and anyone else in the parish who has something to say.
But if the archbishop is not able to have a close relationship with 100 priests, can the vicar do any better?
Carroll said he might start going to deanery meetings — meetings of priests in the various regions of the archdiocese — just to be present and spend more time with the priests. Sometimes, priests only see each other at the retreat, assembly and Chrism Mass during Holy Week.
KEEP IN TOUCH
“I have to look into ways of keeping in touch with the guys,” he said.
The priesthood has often been described as a stressful job, but Carroll doesn’t see it that way.
“Personally, I don’t think the priests have the stress that parents have with bringing up children or the stress they have with a job” in a harsh economic climate.
“We have a roof over our head and food on the table. We’re well cared for by the people of our parishes.”
Stress for the priest comes in human relationships, he said. “The biggest problem of the priest will be in dealing with people.”
Even there, Carroll says most relationships priests have with parishioners will be warm.
“I think the people in the parish always give the priest the benefit (of the doubt). They’re always prepared to see the goodness of the priest.”
On the priest’s side, he should see himself as a member of the parish community and listen to how the parish functions. “I’ve found people in the parishes (where I have served) to be welcoming and always willing to accept the priest into their community.”