Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brand New Ex-Jesuit Says, "Felt Less Attached To The Institutional Church"

HIGH-PROFILE Jesuit priest Peter Norden is leaving the religious order and considering his future as a priest, burnt out and somewhat disillusioned after four decades of pastoral and social work.

Father Norden — a noted social advocate, long-time Pentridge Prison chaplain and founder of Jesuit Social Services — said yesterday his workload had become unmanageable and he had not been adequately supported by the church on organizational or personal issues.

He said that in his last year as a part-time parish priest at St Ignatius, Richmond, he did 70 weddings, 200 baptisms and 50 funerals. He also travelled interstate 30 times as policy director for Jesuit Social Services.

Over the decades he ministered to the six prisoners who died in the Jika Jika fire at Pentridge Prison in 1987 and attended several murder and suicide scenes.

"At Jika Jika most of the officers took six months off and had counselling, but no one had any concern for me," he said. "Most of the stuff I am working through is traumatic stuff from 20 years ago. In one sense it's all very exciting and challenging, but you realise you are carrying scars."

Father Norden said he was still motivated by a call to service of the community, but felt less attached to the institutional church. He said he was still thinking about whether he would remain a priest. "I feel burnt out and need a new direction."

Jesuit Provincial Steve Curtin expressed gratitude for Father Norden's "extremely stressful work, on behalf of … people at the edges of society".

Link (here) to original article in The Age.


Anonymous said...

This is one of the most tragic stories you have posted. I am sure there are circumstances beneath the surface that are not publicly known, but what this man needs is a long sabbatical, not being pushed to the edge. Maybe there are personal conflicts between him and his bishop and local superiors but he should never have been allowed to reach such an impasse. His Provincial's statement is laconic to the point of indifference which suggests difficulties. But, on superficial terms, there does seem strong evidence of institutional neglect. I hope he will not abandon the priesthood but will, after a year's rest, continue elsewhere. This is an example of 'Get on with the job' at its worst.

Joseph Fromm said...

"I am sure there are circumstances beneath the surface that are not publicly known"


But, why did he have to blame everyone and everything else? And why did his exit interview have to done in a press release?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that it is suspect when people publicize their decisions in the media. In the long term it does neither them nor the institutions they belong to and serve any good. The reason I commented was because it seems on the surface that he was good pastorally as well as promoting social justice. This is a rare alliance. But, despite whatever went wrong, I hope his priesthood will be saved. I shall pray for him.