Unhappy priests?

Local news outlet RTV Noord reports unhappiness among some of the clergy of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. The reason? A string of new appointments which came into effect this month.

In general, parish priests remain in one parish (or, as is the case in the diocese in question, a cluster of parishes) for six to eight years. Among the priest that were reassigned were Father Peter Stiekema, who wrapped up twelve years in the south east of the province of Drenthe for Leeuwarden, the Frisian capital; and three young priests who are heading to their second assignment: Fathers Victor Maagd, Jos Deuling and Albert Buter. Fr. Bert van der Wal is also one of the reassigned priests. In an interview following the news of their reassignments, Fr. Stiekema and Maagd (pictured) commented on their move. “I go where I’m needed,” Fr. Stiekema said after admitting that the news had some emotional undertones for him. Fr. Maagd said, “the priesthood is a matter of being called and sent.”

Fr. Jos Deuling called the rumoured grumblings “misplaced”, and calls it “refreshing” for both priests and faithful to relocate every now and again.

While it is certainly understandable that leaving a familiar parish and beloved faithful behind is hard, it comes with the territory. As times change, so do the demands of the faithful and the diocese. Personally, knowing some of the priests in question to a certain extent, I have my doubts about the nature and extent of the unhappiness.

EDIT: Later today, Bishop Gerard de Korte offered a response that was much along the lines of what I wrote above. He understands the pain of leaving a familiar parish, but adds:

“We are of course also a Catholic Church in which the bishop can send his priests to where they are needed. So accepting that does have something to do with a bit of priestly spirituality.”

Photo credit:  DvhN/Duncan Wijting

TV Masses new style

The tower of St. Boniface in Leeuwarden

Tomorrow I will be attending Mass in another church: With some friends I am going to St. Boniface’s in Leeuwarden for two reasons.

The first is the fact that this Mass will be first Mass organised by my diocese for live television broadcast. A bit of an event, especially since, starting this year, the dioceses have taken the responsibility of the televised Masses in their own hands. The Masses rotate through the dioceses, so that each organises seven TV Masses per year. In Groningen-Leeuwarden, they have chosen for the church of St. Boniface in Leeuwarden, with Father Albert Buter as celebrating priest.

Leo Fijen, head of the Religion & Culture department of the KRO, the network responsible for the TV broadcast, says that the new arrangement shows “the diversity and vitality of the Catholic Church in the Netherlands”. What I’ve seen of the Masses broadcast up till now is that the quality is actually quite good. Of course, there is always room for improvement: priests should use proper missals instead of binders, ugly glass ‘altar tables’ and choirs in the sanctuary have to go, but in general, the impression is positive.

Let’s hope that tomorrow’s Mass will fit in that trend. I’ve never attended a Mass by Father Albert, but the church will be impressive enough. St. Boniface is a massive building, larger than the cathedral here in Groningen.

The Mass will be broadcast live on Nederland 2, starting at 10:00, and will be preceded by an interview with Fr. Albert starting at 9:35.

After the Mass I intend to stick around at a diocesan youth platform event to mark the start of Lent. A nice occasion to see some people I haven’t seen in a while.