Q — I know you teach at a seminary and must follow priests through their careers. How can we, as parishioners, best support our priests, who can face loneliness as celibates? I know one should not take up too much time, because these men are so busy, but there must be a reasonable way to help.

A — How pleasant to find someone raising an issue as sensitive as this. Thank you for doing so.

In the seminary, students are formed on four tracks, often referred to as the “four pillars” of formation: human, spiritual, pastoral and academic. Successful formation for a seminarian consists in the growing integration of each one of these tracks. In human formation, also in spiritual formation/direction, many opportunities present themselves for developing the insights and skills for coping with loneliness. We also have a psychologist who comes every week to the seminary to provide further assistance with such issues. So, a great deal of attention is being given to formation for the celibate life and for coping with loneliness.

Priests then develop their own habits, for example, relationships with other priests, with their own siblings, etc.

What can parishioners do?

I would say, “Be friendly, open and welcoming, and when opportunities naturally come along to invite a priest to dinner or some other appropriate social event, do so.”

Finally, priests need the space and freedom to make their own appropriate choices about their free-time.