While some of these responses are not entirely false, there is more that could be said. I suppose our kids’ curiosity about what a priest does is not unique. A lot of other people wonder about it as well. I’ve found people’s perceptions of this to vary widely. Some seem to think that after the morning Mass, the priest just goes back to the rectory to take a nap. Others perceive the priest as being just so busy that he has no time for anyone, unless it’s an emergency.
As a pastor in a parish, it’s difficult to say what a typical day is like since my schedule can vary so much from day to day. So many unplanned things may come up. Funerals are the best example of this. When I was an associate and high school chaplain in Marshfield, my days were much more regular and predictable. Now that I’m a pastor, and no longer have that old priest at St. John’s bossing me around, things are different. While things certainly vary, here’s a rundown of my day/week with the things that are fairly consistent.
I usually get up at 5am, shower, pray Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours), have breakfast and read the daily news online. By 7am, I’m in church making my holy hour (prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament… priests need to take time for daily silent prayer – it’s like spouses making it a point to spend time talking with each other each day, otherwise their marriage begins to crumble). At 8am, I have my daily Mass in Auburndale or Hewitt. At 11am on Tuesday and Thursday, I offer an additional Mass in Blenker. Between Masses on Tuesday morning, I go to the hospital to visit and anoint any parishioners we may have there. On Wednesdays once a month, I have an additional Mass at Bethel Care Center. On the first Friday of every month, I spend the morning bringing Holy Communion to our homebound. Periodically, I visit all of our sick and homebound, especially during Advent and Lent, and hopefully a couple other times throughout the year.
For me, most afternoons are office time – time for email correspondence, returning phone calls, meetings with people for various pastoral concerns, meetings with couples preparing for baptism or marriage, giving spiritual direction (I have about 3-4 directees with whom I meet monthly), preparing homilies and writing bulletin columns. I also spend time daily meeting with our parish secretaries, going over things going on in the parish, signing checks, staying up on finance and maintenance issues, etc.
Evenings throughout the week are for parish meetings (pastoral and finance councils, other committee meetings.), religious ed., possible adult faith formation sessions, etc. If my schedule is open later in the evening, I go to watch a basketball game or other sporting event at Auburndale. There have been a few parishioners who have invited me over to their homes for dinner, and that has always been a treat. By 8:30 or 9pm I like to be back in the rectory winding down, perhaps with a book or a bit of news on TV, and hopefully be in bed by around 10pm.
Of course, on the weekends are Mass and confessions. Monday is the day I usually “take off.” I usually go to my parents’ home in Wausau, or I visit friends/former parishioners in La Crosse, or I visit other priests, or they visit me. If possible, I try to leave Sunday afternoon to have the night away. If I stay at the rectory, I find that I’m more likely to just keep working. As a priest in a parish, there is always plenty to do. But my vocation is ultimately to be a father, and so I am happy to make myself available for my parishioners. Just call and make an appointment… that’s the best way to make time in a busy schedule. Being a part of people’s lives as we seek to grow closer to the Lord is a privilege and a blessing.