Transitions can be difficult for everyone, saying good bye and getting to know and trust someone new can be a challenge. To help ease in the changes, below are ten helpful hints in welcoming your new pastor or priest.
1. Be patient with him. The stress of moving, the grief of leaving a familiar parish and the newness of it all might be a bit much for him. Be patient.
2. Don’t beat a path to his door. Give him some time to unpack, get settled, finding all the bathrooms and getting the church office staff names straight. This might take a month or two, or longer…see #1.
3. Tell him your name and what you are involved with. Don’t do this once or twice, but a number of times. Don’t be offended if in six months or a year later he doesn’t remember your name. He wants to. Really! So don’t embarrass him, tell him again!
4. Make sure he has help moving in if he wants it. The parish secretary can help knowing if he needs help. Some priests would welcome help, others desire privacy. We are all different. A nice welcome basket from the Altar Society or Knights of Columbus is always thoughtful.
5. Let him change his mind! Sometimes a decision made early is rushed or made without fully understanding the situation. It might be necessary for him to change his mind. Give him some wiggle room.
6. Try not to compare him to your former pastor. This will not be fully possible of course, and he will struggle in comparing his previous parish to the present. Comparisons will only impede a relationship.
7. Tell him your story, the story of the parish, the traditions, and the important values of the parish. Every parish and tradition in a parish has a story behind it. These stories are important for him to know.
8. When he asks how something is done in the past or what the protocol is, refrain from telling him “Whatever you would like Father!” We generally want to keep things the way they are and not fix something that is not broken, so don’t be afraid to tell him how things operate in the parish. Sometimes a new pastor makes changes without even knowing they have changed anything because no one told him.
9. Let him get to know you and the parish. Be sure to invite him to different parish events. Yes, he sees the bulletin and should know when something is happening but he might not know if he is really wanted.
10. Pray for him and let him know you are praying for him!
(Originally published by By Fr. Kenneth VanHaverbeke, Diocese of Wichita.)