SPIRITUAL FORMATION – THE HALLMARK OF THE PRIESTHOOD (4)

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2014

SPIRITUAL FORMATION – THE HALLMARK OF THE PRIESTHOOD (4)

BY

ERNEST ONUOHA

HUMAN FORMATION

AS we conclude this article, it is important we draw attention to the last and another most critical aspect in the formation of the priest. The aspect that merits our consideration is the Human dimension. Unarguably, the priest moves in the human domain, say public relations. In order that his ministry may be humane, credible and acceptable, he should be so formed in such a way that he becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of humanity.

  Therefore, priests should cultivate series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realisation of self, but also with a view to the ministry. These qualities are needed for them to be balanced people, strong, free and capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities. They need to be educated to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially, to be balanced in judgment and behaviour (Pastores Dabo Vobis).

  Unfortunately, we have problem in today’s ministry. The fact remains that some people have poor human relations. Most times, they are very difficult to work with. I suspect sometimes, in ministries including the Anglican Church, some Bishops or General Overseers may be in dilemma as to how to handle or where to locate such pastors during posting. In fact, say that these people are ‘unlocateable’ ‘excuse the expression’, ‘mission impossible’. What do you think in such a situation a Bishop or a General Overseer should do? They cannot necessarily manufacture ministers, but should make do with what is available on the mission field. And that is why it is always a burden in the heart of a chief under shepherd to handle pastors with poor human relations. But think of it, what is a priest without a congregation? It is said: ‘when the disciples are ready, the master will appear.’ But if the master should appear and the congregation disappears, where then is the place of the priest in the Church? We need to draw attention of priests to ensure that they work on themselves in order to avoid being at dagger points with members of their congregation.

  As a priest, are you cantankerous, hot tempered, insatiable and self-opinionated? It is required that we seek the face of God and His grace to help us to overcome our known or manifest weaknesses. David would say: ‘I know my sins for they are ever before me’ Ps. 51:3. We cannot avoid totally members of the congregation. We need them and I am sure they need us too. The question remains, do we have, as priests the requisite human relations to help us adequately proclaim the gospel of peace?

  The ministry of the priest is, certainly, to proclaim the word, to celebrate the sacraments, to guide the Christian community in charity ‘in the name and in the person of Christ.’ But all this he does dealing always and only with individual human being: ‘Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God’ (Heb. 5:1). In fact, we move in the domain of human relations.

  Therefore, we can safely conclude that the spiritual formation of a priest cannot be over-emphasised. The priest, as it were, needs to be formed particularly in these four areas, spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human relations. It is recommended that we should not rest on our oars as a church and as people of God and more so, with institutions saddled with the responsibility of training priests to ensure that this noble objective of formation of priests are achieved.

Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor,
Delta State.

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