NEW YORK, FEB. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- When one priest finds himself doing the work of three or four, practical support is very much in order, says the director of a Web site that facilitates idea-and-resource-sharing among clergy.
Father Alex Yeung heads up ePriest, a site that offers resources for priests, such as weekly homily packs, ideas for “best practices” for running a parish, and a library of articles and news for the ongoing formation of the clergy.
Epriest completed one year online Jan. 1. The director reports the site has subscribers in 30 countries, and had 5,000 hits to the Web site in the last month.
Father Yeung acknowledges that although nothing can replace the integral human and spiritual formation of a priest in order to foster vibrant parishes, he said ePriest can be a tool.
The Legionary of Christ told ZENIT: “Electronic communication has proven to be an ideal medium for certain types of services that benefit priests, especially the sharing of pastoral ideas and initiatives.
“In a day when priests on the front lines of the mission are doing the work of three or four men, timeliness and practicality are of the essence.”
“But in the midst of the work,” he added, “we must not lose sight of the spiritual care of the priest himself. The ultimate efficacy of a priest’s ministry depends on how united he is with Christ.
“EPriest is a tool that can help — but never replace — the apostolic efficacy of a holy priest.”
The weekly homily packs offer what the site calls “ingredients for effective homilies,” tips on how to preach, as well as Spanish-language homilies for priests working in parishes with a large Latino presence.
Father Dave Heney of St. Paschal Baylon Parish in Thousand Oaks, California, a member of the site’s diocesan priest advisory committee, told ZENIT that ePriest is ideal for what it doesn’t do: “I think the most important aspect is that it does not take away our responsibility as priests to thoughtfully and prayerfully compose our own sermons. Some services provide complete sermons which can induce a kind of ministerial laziness.
“I find the ePriest ideas to be ‘idea-starters’ for me. Most of the time, they simply get me started along a certain path that might end up very different from the lesson of ePriest, although it was certainly inspired by it.”
EPriest subscriber Father John Bateman of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, agreed: “EPriest is just the starter I need to get ideas, an outline, then adapt the text to make it my own.”
The site also provides “best practices” for running a parish. The profiles, updated weekly, offer ideas that touch all sectors of parish life, such as sacraments, outreach, faith formation, youth, attracting vocations and even administrative topics such as finance.
The ideas are submitted by priests and are based on ideas they have implemented and found successful in their own parish. Each best practice is explained in terms of how the idea came about, specific goals, practical application and tips for implementation.
Father James Searby of Holy Spirit Parish in Annandale, Virginia, submitted a best practice on how he tripled attendance for a post-confirmation class. “We needed a religious education system that was not just another class,” he wrote on the ePriest Web site, “but enticed a commitment every Sunday evening to becoming crusaders for their faith.”
The idea he came up with turned a catechism class into a training program, with the end goal being to create a “Special Forces Evangelizing Team.” He divided the participating youth into units of 10-13 members, and created a group and class dynamic that worked to keep the students interested, and coming back.
Father Searby reported that attendance increased from 40 to 130 students in one year, and that the frequency of confession and holy hour among the students also rose. He added that a group of his students convinced a local high school to include a section on religion in the yearbook.
“They are less afraid to be open about their faith,” the priest said.
Although Father Christopher Smith of St. Joseph’s Parish in Palmyra, Missouri, says he doesn’t use all the ideas, he told ZENIT that “the offering of ideas is always helpful.”
“The best practices help me to think through ways I can adapt them to improve ministry in my parish,” he said. “I read them over from time to time and keep things ‘cooking,’ knowing that they will eventually lead to action.”
Diocesan priest Father Lance Harlow of St. Charles Church in Bellows Falls, Vermont, expressed appreciation for the brevity, practicality and user-friendly layout of the articles. “I am not able to spend much time at the computer, so I appreciate the short articles and well-organized presentation.
“For busy parish priests, the short, diversified and practical subjects are most appealing.”
Father Severino Enopena of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Minor Basilica in Manila, the Philippines, added, “The challenging tasks of these times necessitate excellent resources. In the ministry nowadays, we need to have this kind of service.”