Another challenge in this diocese in the priestly ministry is placing every priest in a parish situation to be pastoral priest.Also newly ordained priests are left on their own taking care of parishes for too long a period.This is a challenge in itself because it does not enable the growth of the church.As in the normal events of life people need to be trained and placed where they will best apply themselves.Care and concern can be raised here for young priests to be given the opportunity to study relevant and applicable subjects that are necessary for their priestly ministry in the diocese.Priests who are left to run parishes for too long run the risk of getting old quickly and having ‘cracked’ brains.For the good of the priestly ministry in the diocese priests need to be given the opportunity to study sometime after ordination.
Lastly I want to draw the attention of our audience to this emerging challenge in the priestly ministry in the Gambia.Here we have the emergence of the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in the past fifteen years or more.They come with a fierce kind of propagation of their kind of Christianity.They have very well equipped men and women and money to win members for their churches.They also have attractive means of influencing people to draw them to their churches.Making a good personal observation, most of the people that they win over are not converts but our catholic parishioners who fall prey to them.Through investigation, I realize these Pentecostal churches are operating mainly where we have a good population of our catholic parishioners in Serrekunda, Bakoteh, Abuko, Lamin, Brikama, Farafenni and Basse.
VI.SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS TO OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES:
As mentioned in the last sections there are five challenges but there could be more.It is left to our individual observation so that we can view and reflect on the challenges that are present in the priestly ministry.
I now attempt some practical suggestions to the challenges.The first challenge is lack of expansion in the priestly work of evangelization.The factor responsible for this as we viewed was that the church only concentration where it exists.The present era can still be an era of expansion.Priest should redirect their minds and try to reach out to other areas worth expanding.Maintaining and sustaining the communities that we have is not enough.In line with expansion is also the need to seek and provide the financial resources that will carry forward our priestly ministry.Secondly, the challenge in priestly ministry faced in the distant parishes can be looked into properly.Going to these places demand sacrifice and priests have to have a heart to sacrifice to be in these places.This is embedded in the priestly vocation.In the Bible, Christ chose the twenty two and sent them out to where he wanted to be not to where they chose to go.If priests are in distant places, pastoral visits need to be made to them often by the Bishop which will be a source of encouragement and first hand experience for the Bishop to be able to give help.Finally, Priests are not to be left in these parishes for too long, but should be given chance to experience other parishes too.
The challenge centered on finances or financial resources are fundamental.What I would love for the diocese and relevant authorities to do, is for qualified and well trained persons be got in the areas of financial management and fund-raising.Secondly, the diocese should look out for other funding agencies other than the old ones that we know.Also each parish should be tasked to be involved in fundraising or ways and means of looking for finances no matter how small.The training of priests is very essential in the priestly ministry because of the needs of the church.After seminary training and education, priests should be given opportunity to be trained in relevant and necessary fields or subjects where they can serve the church.A church or a diocese that is ill informed is a reflection of the kind of priests they have.For the sanity of the priests, young priests should not be left for too long in parishes doing pastorals.Priests can be trained as administrator, counselors, accountants, builders, theologians etc.
If priests are educated and trained that enables them to be able to take care of their communities and have brilliant ways of preaching to retain parishioners and members who may be preys to the encroaching ministers of the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches.The command of Christ in (Matt. 28: 19) is, “Go therefore make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.I am with you always; yes to the end of time”.
Jesus did not give this mandate for the priest to go after those baptize but for the un-baptized.The Lord Jesus will not leave them but will fulfill his promise to remain with them.
Once we have come to understand the motive of the year of priest, I want to leave you with the words of Bishop Emeritus, Bishop Michael Cleary whenever he used to ordain priests.His words were always, “here are or here is your newly ordained priest”.
These words when thought upon use to send a lot of interpretations and had become topic of discussion every time an ordination was held. For me the Bishop handed over the responsibilities of the newly ordained to the community so that they can take care of him.If he is well taken care of he is still their priest and if he is badly taken care of he is still their priest necessary and vital to the community of faith.
So the priestly ministry in the church can be fulfilled with God’s help and the collaboration of the lay faithful.We are all partners in the ministry of the church.Let us pray with God’s help that all people may see, value and participate with the priests in their priestly ministry in the church for the greater glory of God and his Kingdom.