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Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB


Abbot Peter NovecoskyChanging church practice

A parish church in Paris is allowing for card payments during Sunday masses, a report in La Croix International notes.

“New collection baskets that will contain a smartphone payment terminal will now be handed out at Saint-François de Molitor church in Paris,” the report says. The congregation can choose to make a donation ranging from two to 10 euros from a screen. Their offerings are anonymous and processed immediately.

“The experiment is not to increase the amount of donations but to anticipate the future when people don’t carry money anymore,” Rev. Didier Duverne explained. “Our parishioners are receptive to novelty; the interest is not economic.”

This is not the first time the church in France has used new technology to raise money and keep up with the times, La Croix reports. Since 2016 a smartphone app “La Quete” (The Collection) is used by more than 2,000 parishes across 28 dioceses to receive donations.

In Canada a number of parishes are using new technology to make a predetermined weekly donation to their parish coffers. New practices make it easier both for the parish as well as for the parishioner.

Anglican clergy seek support

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was an oil executive who helped run a major corporation before he became a parish priest. However, he says being a pastor is a much more stressful job.

Being a parish priest “was isolated, insatiably demanding, and I was, on the whole, working without close colleagues,” he told Religion News Service. The role is, “for many, quite overwhelming and exhausting.”

This kind of pressure may explain why increasing numbers of priests in the Church of England are seeking outside help for their problems. Faced with demanding congregations, rarely being off duty, piles of paperwork and disciplinary procedures they often feel are unfair, priests are turning to trade unions for support.

According to one of Britain’s largest unions, Unite, the past year has seen a rapid increase in the number of Anglican parish priests joining its specialist faith worker branch. Almost 1,500 priests plus a few rabbis and imams joined the union last year — an increase of 16 per cent in 12 months.

According to Rev. Peter Hobson, head of the priests’ Unite branch, Church of England Clergy Advocates, priests are turning to the union because they are under pressure from all sides — from the people in the pews and from their bishops. “Although it is a vocation, it is also a very difficult role,” he said.

“The workload is enormous. In a consumeristic world, people expect you to deal with their needs instantly, and the bishop, while he is a pastoral figure, is also managerial. And the managerial approach is coming more and more to the fore,” he said.

The challenges Anglican clergy face are being featured in a six-part documentary series on British television. Called “A Vicar’s Life,” it focuses on the work of four priests in the Diocese of Herefordshire — the most rural part of England, next to the Welsh border — and reveals vicars, despite working in a seemingly peaceful, idyllic rural Britain, struggling to cope with the pressures of their roles.

Many are responsible for six parishes each and travel great distances to minister to their congregations. The documentary also highlights the problems of homelessness, unemployment and loneliness in the English countryside, with many people turning to the church for help after considerable cuts to government services.

Some priests were business executives formerly, but find their new pastoral role more stressful and demanding.

Their plight is not unlike that faced by pastors in Western Canada. Priests here lack support of a family and many come from a foreign culture. Caregivers cannot be effective unless they receive care themselves.