Life for new associate pastors can be crazy. Not only are they adjusting to a new public life as a priest, they are meeting hundreds if not thousands of new people, trying to figure out the workflow of the parish, learning how to follow the guidance of their pastor, administering the Sacraments, and trying to be fully present each step along the way. It can quickly become overwhelming. Take for example, the story of one young priest and a demanding pastor.
Fr. “Smith,” a newly ordained priest arrived at his new assignment excited to learn and to serve. His pastor, while well-meaning, ran a very tight ship. He requested that Fr. Smith keep a record of every pastoral visit, and email both the pastor and the staff after each visit with an update. With nine or ten visits in a day, he didn’t always have time directly after each visit to make notes and send each email. As a result, it was easy for the different visits to blend together and forget details while trying to find the time to send the updates. It was a deeply frustrating situation that demanded the question: Why isn’t there a button for that?
We live in a day and age where buttons make every aspect of our lives easier. Need a new toothbrush? You can buy one with a single click of a button. Need a new car? With the push of a few buttons you can buy one online. Need a new house? … Well, we’re not quite there yet, but there are currently companies developing a one-click buying process for homes too. This is all possible because the processes behind each of these needs are repetitive, and we have the technology to easily input information and automate those processes. If there can be a button to buy a home, there can be a button to track pastoral care.
When it comes to pastoral care, having a button that automatically updates information in a cloud-based, easily accessible web app provides priests the greatest gift of all: time. Instead of having to write tens of emails throughout the day to update the parish staff, Fr. Smith can simply open a parishioner’s file, click what Sacraments he provided, add notes about the conversation he had, and the whole ministry team can instantaneously see those updates. Not only is this far more efficient, it is why technology exists to make our lives easier. With the time (and stress) saved, Fr. Smith can have more space for prayer, people, reading, golf, or whatever it is he needs to be the best priest he can be.
Burnout in young priests is a harsh reality of parish life that often goes undiscussed, and it is an issue that is only going to increase with the ongoing vocations crisis. We need to equip priests with the tools they need that alleviate the hectic entrance into parish life. We are wasting too much time using outdated modes of tracking information and communication. Now is the time to adopt and adapt to new technologies that relieve stress and free time. Pastoral Care does not have to be an overwhelming experience that contributes to burnout, and the good news is: there’s a button for that.