Ministry of Priests – Missionaries of the Living Christ

Tuesday, November 25 1997

Vatican City (CCCB) — Reverend Father Émilius Goulet, P.S.S., French- language General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America, said “in order to implement the ‘new evangelization,’ we must form and develop impassioned apostolic priests to proclaim the Gospel.” Father Goulet said that priests are needed “with a deep desire not only to be pastors of the Church, but missionaries of the living Christ, eager to go out into the world where so many men and women are searching for meaning and freedom.”

Father Goulet, speaking in his own name at the Synod, was responding to No. 25 of the Instrumentum Laboris, dealing with priestly vocations and the formation of clergy. He said the continuing decrease in the number of priests “profoundly affects both the ministry and the image of the priest. Many priests believe that being responsible for more than one parish has meant a significant loss in their relationship with their people.” “They also find,” Father Goulet continued “that serving more than one parish diminishes the significance of the Eucharist, which is to be the source and summit of Christian life.”

Father Goulet proposed three lines of action to improve the current situation: Review and harmonize the responsibilities of priests, lay pastoral workers and those exercising new ministries so as to avoid reducing the role of the presbyterial ministry to only celebrating the sacraments; help priests live a balanced life by encouraging spiritual resourcing, proper rest and a fraternal sense of community; encourage vocations to the presbyterate by challenging young adults to consider being priests, especially through the witness and enthusiasm of priests in exercising their mission.

Father Goulet, a former provincial of the Sulpician priests of Montreal, did say one positive impact of the current reduction of priests was that a large number of the laity, men and women, were becoming more aware of their responsibilities in the Church.