I wish I had read the book, “The Better Pastor” by Patrick Lencioni,  a layman who specializes in leadership and team building. The book flap reads:  “As he approached the door to the Sacristy,  Father Daniel  Connor had no idea that his parish and his priesthood – was about to be changed forever.”

  This book is a fictional, yet realistic story; lovingly written for all those priests in the world who are not only spiritual shepherds, but also leaders of the organizations we call parishes. Being the pastor of a Catholic parish is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. Whether they are responsible for a small rural parish, medium-sized urban one, or large suburban-mega parish, all pastors have one thing in common: they can’t do it alone.

Though it’s been a long time since I served as a pastor, I found this book an extremely helpful, and an easy read. Unfortunately, many wonderful priests find that becoming a pastor can be overwhelming and lonely. It can diminish the joy of their vocation, which is a needless tragedy. That’s the opinion of the author, and I agree with him. He has written best-selling books on leadership for businessman, and applied the same skills to parish life.

Here’s an introduction in his own words: 1. A pastor is not just a priest but the leader of a an organization that requires management and leadership skills. 2. Part of leading an organization is holding people accountable for excellence, which often involves difficulty, uncomfortable and loving conversations. 3. A pastor needs a real management team to do this. 4. A pastor needs support from “outsiders” and other priests.

The Mass, which is the source and summit of our faith, is the most visible sign of the health of a parish. Excellence in the celebration of Mass encourages parishioners and visitors to become more involved in going deeper in their faith and parish life. All of this will take time, involve pain, if an honest job report has to be issued. Don’t back off and accept mediocrity.

Explore some amazing websites. Read great books on this topic. Pray and enlist others  to ask God’s help in achieving the goal of being the pastor God wants you to be.

May the Lord be your strength and your joy.

Father John Catoir is a retired priest of the Paterson Diocese.