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June 21, 2009

Priest moves a win-win

By Michelle Martin


Come July, 37 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be getting to know new pastors, and another couple of dozen will welcome new associate pastors.

It’s a rite of summer in the archdiocese, which has had a policy of term limits for both pastors and associate pastors for decades. For a list of new assignments, see Page 13.

“The priests themselves have voted to have term limits many times,” said Father John Clemens, pastor at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Rosemont and former executive secretary of the Priest’s Placement Board, which makes recommendations on where priests should be assigned. “They fulfill that wish and desire on the part of the priests to have more flexibility when it comes to applying for places, and also so that more parishes get the benefit of the talents of individual priests.”

Generally, pastors serve sixyear terms, renewable once for a total of 12 years, and associate pastors serve two-year terms, renewable twice for a total of six years. Terms can be extended in special circumstances, such as an ongoing capital project or a pastor’s impending retirement.

Clemens served as the Priest’s Placement Board’s executive secretary for seven and a half years, before becoming pastor of Our Lady of Hope July 1, 2008.

For a parish to have a successful transition from one pastor to another, he said, everybody — parishioners as well as the priest — have to be open to the change.

“I think there are problems when people make snap judgments,” Clemens said. “I think if people expect everything to be the same, there isn’t that openness to what God has in store for the parish. But that goes for everybody. You need to have openness on both sides.”