Any suggestions on showing grace for parishioners as I resign?
  • Fellow members, I could sure use some suggestions on a vague reason for my resignation from a Roman Catholic parish where I have served for two decades. I will be submitting my resignation to the pastor this coming Monday. I cannot be forthcoming with the true reason I am leaving my post (the pastor).

    Parishioners have been generous and loving toward me and it's going to hurt them deeply that I am leaving them, so I need to "frame" some explanation for my resignation that will leave them with the best I can give them.

    I don't want to leave these folks haunted with thoughts of, "if only we would have..." It would be the most-loving and respectful gift to leave them believing that life inflicts unexpected changes.

  • why not simply put: 'a situation has arisen that sadly I am no longer able to sustain' or something like that? that's true
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    I think the parishioners probably know why you are leaving. If you decide to tell anyone the reason, I can't see that you owe any loyalty to this pastor.
  • Dixit_Dominus_44 and CharlesW, thank you. You've given me some useful ideas on the wording of my resignation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    Don't worry about the pastor. He has dug his own hole, you didn't do it. Don't take any garbage from him.

    Only 63? You have a number of good music years ahead of you in the right place.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    I would frame your communications with the congregation and choirs in terms of setting out for greener pastures. Everyone understands the desire to retire. Likewise, the need to switch careers, if that's what you're doing.

    Regarding giving a long notice, I would strongly advise you not to. Seriously, give a two week notice on Easter Monday. It might be ok to give a longer notice if the pastor were trusted, but in this situation, as things are, I would not risk missing Holy Week. I take it that is important to you.

    I understand the reason for giving a longer notice, to allow for adjustment and replacement, but I've seen too many weird things happen when people are generous and responsible in that way.

    Then if he asks you to stay a few weeks longer, you can graciously do that if you choose.
  • If you are, for all intents and purposes, retiring, "I'm ready to retire" is a totally fine answer. My dad was more or less forced to retire at 60 (he's a computer guy), but as it turned out, he really was ready (and able, financially) to retire. He's enjoyed virtually every minute of it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    Retirement is good. I have done it four times.
  • Thank you, Kathy, I really appreciate your recommendation. I've always been last, but now I'm in a situation to take care of myself. It is the common symptom among so many of us who serve in ministry. Thank you, and I'm sure that even more, my family would thank you. I will take your suggestion to heart.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    You're most welcome! I will be praying for you, your family, and your parish during this delicate time. God bless.
  • You could say something -- like my dad did when he retired from university --about wanting to retire at the pinnacle of your career, or before others wanted to show you the door, or to make room for younger people, or even to give the pastor the freedom to lead the parish without the baggage of an employee who has been in this post for 2 decades....

    My dad's memory was beginning to fail, and so he wanted to retire while he was still useful to the students.
  • TimTheEnchanter, CharlesW, Dixit_Dominus_44, and Kathy, you've been more help than you could ever imagine. I appreciate you taking time to offer suggestions very much. I think I have a plan now.

    I imagine it is hard for all of us who "serve and help others" to find ourselves cornered into a position to "help ourselves" for the sake of our health and the welfare of our families.

    "Oh what tangled webs we weave" trying to be nice to everyone but ourselves! ;-)
    Thanked by 2Carol CCooze
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    So true. I think we are service oriented people and we do try to be helpful to others. That is a good thing, but it can lead us into situations where we are genuinely taken advantage of and mistreated. Along with the "steady stream of resignations" you mentioned are parishioners leaving?
    Thanked by 2Elmar CCooze
  • To my knowledge, parishioners have not left the parish because of the new pastor, with the exception of some ministry volunteers and staff members. He is quite charming in public but can get quite sharp-tongued behind closed doors. I've been reading up on "narcissistic personality disorder" and he fits the bill.

    He is "Fr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde."

    Our liturgy director and I cannot get an appointment with the pastor to discuss liturgy matters without 3-week notice, scheduled only through the parish office manager. If we text, phone or email him, he refers us to the office. This is not a large parish.

    It's not always been smooth sailing with pastors in the past, but it worked well because those pastors communicated and met with us. We all discussed and planned and shared the work together. This pastor creates chaos and confusion then blames others for the inevitable failures.

    He has put the parish in a very sad state of affairs.

    I am sharing these details trusting that this conversation may be helpful to others in my situation if they find this thread in the future.
  • church musicians always want to give GOD the very best, and they care deeply about the people in the pews - sometimes too much. that is natural and normal. i would caution you, gently, about 'enabling' this priest. not in the sense of 'punishing' him, but basically not shielding him by going out of your way
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Dixit Dominus, I would say that is what distinguishes a true church musician from someone who plays at church: to want to give God the best music possible, not just playing because there should be music. Church musicians perform for the glory of God and not for themselves.

    ParishMusicDirector, I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Those of us who work on the inside of the Church see many things that others don't. One note to what you said: the accounting issue is quite serious. You may want to report that to the diocesan finance director. The books are never something that should be kept that secret between two people. (I'm an accountant in addition to being a church musician).
    Thanked by 2Elmar CCooze
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    Actually I think I'm going to backtrack and give you a completely different kind of advice.

    My guess is that the priest is there with a mandate to cut costs. It could be that he feels that internally, or is getting pressure from the Diocesan financial people, or possibly there is someone on staff who would like to spend some people's salaries on other things. Possibly several of these things together.

    I've seen similar situations in which people who were treated as you are being treated stayed the course and outlasted the pastor, the office manager, and the business manager, and lived to see happier days.

    If you were to want to stay, then the thing to do would be to change your entire mindset about working there. I wouldn't even try to have a meeting with the pastor, as strange as that seems. Whatever you do, don't try to talk to him. Don't go to the Sacristy before Mass and try to talk with him, don't text or call, make all the decisions yourself with the Liturgy director, and just be a professional music director. You know the job without asking. To keep the communication flowing you could write him a memo every quarter and keep a copy in your files, about the music you've done and the progress you've made, but keep it very brief and matter of fact.

    If you could do that and lower the stress level--and you and your friends and family would know better whether that is possible for you--and if you really want to stay in church music, then that is one option open to you. Just try to outlast these destructive people.
    Thanked by 3Elmar Liam CCooze
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    "Text messages, phone calls and emails to him are answered with, "book an appointment through the office."

    That is definitely not OK. His PRIMARY duty as a priest is the holy liturgy. I have a standing appt. with my pastor every week and we often text about various things every day. I can't imagine being in the position you describe!

    All I can say is that the Devil likes to sow division, so storming out in a blaze of fury to embarrass the pastor will not do any good in the long-run. (You clearly aren't interested in this as indicated in your OP, but let the devil tempt you after a bad meeting...) I suspect that anyone with eyes to see will realize what's going on (especially the people in ministry to whom you've confided and are likely closest) and anyone who cares to know the truth will find out. Let him be the cause of his own scandal, that way your conscience is clean. I say this knowing full-well how difficult it would be. I don't think that it is unreasonable for you to admit to anyone who is persistent that "your working relationship with the pastor simply isn't tenable, you don't want to go into specifics, but you've simply come to the conclusion that you can no longer work this way." That is not defamatory in any way, and is a simple telling of the truth of the matter.

    Regarding Kathy's advice, this also appears sound to me, assuming you can stomach the prospect. If he's not interested in meeting with you, and makes you jump through unnecessary hoops to do so, then you could indeed just go about your business and throw it right back on him if he's suddenly displeased with a liturgical decision with which he had previously taken no interest. It's an interesting and not unreasonable option.
    Thanked by 3Elmar Kathy CHGiffen
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 991
    I thought canon law required a parish to have a finance council. If he has fired his, then this needs to be brought to the bishop's attention.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 283
    What bhcordova said. Unlike parish councils, finance councils are mandated by canon law. Not having one is a very bad sign, and something that I think the bishop would/should be concerned about were it brought to his attention. If he is driving off staff to free up money, the absence of a finance council suggests that it may not be being spent on appropriate things. I hate to cast suspicion on the basis of cursory knowledge, but I've seen enough to think this is worrisome.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    If you do want to quit, don't give him ten weeks' notice with some kind of option to stay on through Pentecost. Either quit after Easter or even sooner, or stay on longer to a date of your choosing and quit then. But don't announce a departure far away in the future if you do decide not to stick it out.
    Thanked by 2Elmar CCooze
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    Not making light of your situation but don't be like that 300-pound soprano I saw in an opera who wasted away from TB through 4 acts. Give a couple of weeks notice and leave.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,393
    If it's a parish (as opposed to oratory), it's required to have a finance council under Canon 532. While the pastor can preside over meetings of the finance council, he cannot be a member. Diocesan statutes may govern number of, and qualifications for, members/membership.
  • Liam,

    When Canon 915 is enforced, other canons will be enforced. In the meantime, it's quite likely that the bishop not only knows about the situation, but even approves.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CCooze
  • Thank you, everyone, for taking time to read this conversation and to share your thoughtful suggestions.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Getting back to my original question, "Any suggestions on showing grace for parishioners as I resign," you have been helpful.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Elmar
  • As a convert, I have been puzzled that so many Roman Catholic parishioners, nuns and priests behave as if they don't want any connection with the Roman Catholic Church. It was the rich and meaningful beauty of the Roman Catholic liturgy that attracted me to conversion. And who could resist such an exquisite musical repertoire to enhance the worship experience? (I believe that is the first time in my life I have described anything as "exquisite.")
  • In this thread conversation there has been a lot of focus on the pastor and the consequences coming to him after I resign. I'm not worried about the pastor. He is the type of person who makes sure he always "wins" in the end, which means he blames everyone else when he self-sabotages. He'll be fine.
  • Thanks for the suggestions!
  • Thank you all who came to assist a fellow parish music director asking for your suggestions. Again, you have been more helpful than you can imagine. I pray that future readers finding this thread will glean something helpful from this discussion.

    Out of respect for the parishioners, I have decided to offer a little less than a month's notice
  • I am grateful for, this community of you wonderful and brilliant people across the globe. Your forum discussions and this site's many music and liturgy resources have been more helpful than I could describe over the years I served this parish.

    Thank you, everyone. May God bless you.
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 242
    Take care of yourself, thank you for sharing and I will say a prayer for you.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 382
    You're included in my prayers.
    As I mentioned earlier, I am quite certain my Monday resignation will permanently conclude my vocation in parish/church music ministry. I don't have the impressive credentials most of you hold, so I have never been able to get an interview when applying for positions at other parishes. This Easter Sunday will be the saddest of my life. I loved serving. It was an honor.
    What a pity that you cannot just come over here, people like this are desperately needed with or without 'credentials' ... as church musician numbers decrease even more quickly than churches are being closed.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    Time can heal many wounds. It might not be “forever”. Don’t give up just yet on music all together. But, in light of the additional details you’ve shared, resignation definitely seems the appropriate option. I’m so sorry.
  • I dont think these things need to be complicated. If you prayerfully DISCERNED this decision- then you can simply say, I see that God's will for me at the moment is leading me else where after much discernment and prayer. People should respect that without any explanations.

    God Bless you.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,225
    God bless you, dear friend. Almost all of us have experienced shabby treatment at the hands of clergy, and I am very sad to hear you have been suffering under the heel of this unfit pastor. He’s made his bed and now he will have to lie in it.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,336
    They will know. All you have to do is profusely thank them for their extensive donation if time, energy and service.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    Many prayers for you. I don't know what else is available where you are located, but best wishes for finding something else, if you so desire.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    I'm just going to make one more pitch at suggesting that you not resign until after Easter.

    I can imagine nothing more likely than a rude pastor, with a modernist diocesan bigwig breathing down his neck complaining about chant, accepting a resignation from an orthodox choir director and asking immediately for his keys.

    I wish it weren't possible, but many stranger things have happened. If you want to protect your Holy Week, resign after it.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,612
    My suggestion.

    Pray and seek God on what to do. Level with your gut (and your spiritual director if you have one). Move on. Don't try to second guess the options. You are not going to save the parish, the members or the church with an 'informed perspective'. Shake The Dust. (pick a date now or later... it really isn't that important) BTDTMT
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    Kathy is certainly right that you might not make it to Easter. I tried to give two weeks’ notice before Christmas at one job, intending to play through the feast day. The pastor walked out of our meeting without saying a word, and the secretary came in a few minutes later, handed me a check and told me not to come back; they took my keys and had someone follow me out. I joke I was “quit fired”.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,737
    I suppose it would be best to take personal belongings home before giving notice. I was going to suggest giving the notice after the last Mass on Easter Sunday.
  • Thank you all, you are very insightful and helpful. I knew I was calling on the experienced best and wisest for input.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    God bless! I will be praying for you and for your parishioners, and for your pastor as well.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,336
    "I've been reading up on "narcissistic personality disorder" and he fits the bill.", been there, done that, got the pink slip.
    Note: Make sure you have all your belongings out of your office before tending your resignation, or have a plan to get your stuff out fast. With a narcissist personality you do not know what his reaction will be...he may try to retaliate in some way... I was given a short time to evacuate and then I would be locked out of the building.
    It seems that narcissists often end up as leaders in both the church and secular worlds, they crave the power to control others.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,336
    BTW. There are many ways to achive "credentials". The AGO has many ways you can get say a choirmaster certificate. I think the NPM has a similar program. If you have been doing this, i would bet that you already have this skills to seek these credentials.
    And don't overlook references and testimonials from former clergy you have worked with, and choir members and music folks you have worked with. Even if you haven't worked with them for awhile, people are usually willing to be a reference or to write a word in your favor. Such positive comments can go a long way and be more persuasive than degrees.
  • Thank you all for your helpful suggestions, enlightening and encouraging comments.

    Several days ago I privately informed the pastor of my resignation. I gave a reason that has nothing to do with the church. I didn't lie although I didn't mention anything involving the parish's poor leadership situation.

    I decided this was best so that the pastor wouldn't feel quite the need to defend himself by casting venom on me and others, and parishioners wouldn't have cause to be angry or frustrated, blaming and haunting themselves with thoughts of, "if only we would have, if only... if only..." Also, it spares me the many hours of parishioners phoning or coming to me trying to "fix it," asking for meetings to mull it over or pressure me with "why didn't you," "why don't you..." and "you should have..."

    We're dealing with a situation where you can't change another person's ways, especially a person in the role of complete authority.

    After decades at this parish, I can't help but care very much about the welfare of the parishioners. So I asked the pastor if we could keep my resignation confidential until after Holy Week. I offered to remain 6 weeks to assist the parish in laying out a plan for a transitional period. He agreed and was relieved and thankful for that for his own reasons.

    For myself, the lengthy departure time lands my final Sunday on a calendar date that holds personal significance. In the mean time I plan to organize, clean, and ready all I can for my successor.

    Thank you again, everyone, you're a very helpful community.

  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,225
    It sounds like you are a real "stand-up guy," ParishMusicDirector. I am sure your parish community will be lesser for the absence of your plainly evident care and diligence. I have been through some difficult pastoral situations myself, and I decided to leave full-time sacred music for another field. I am sure our loving God sees your heart and will reward you for your tact, not to mention your many years of service.
  • Carol
    Posts: 700
    Prayers for you as you move on. I agree that you handled this with great grace!
  • Thank you, Irishtenor and Carol. As we all learn time and again, "doing the right thing" always comes at great personal cost but it leaves us with some sense of character and integrity when we have given it our best effort. I think that's a lesson worthy of the price.

    It seems that most parish directors, singers, and musicians can't help but envision their music ministry's possibilities. We're disappointed, frustrated and grieved when we are directed by someone who lacks vision, leadership skills, a community mindset, lacks interest in community outreach, and is driven to sabotage any of these efforts from others. They project their personal struggles onto the entire parish so that everyone under their authority is set up for nothing but failure.

    So many times I've felt like grabbing pastors by the shoulders to shake them and look them in the eye, "Can you not see the blessings and gifts and possibilities these parish volunteers are offering?" But, as a priest-friend pointed out to me, the flaw in that thinking is that priests are compensated the same whether their parish is vibrant and growing or merely maintaining the status quo. There is no tangible reward given them for taking on additional hours of work to have a parish of note to its community. As one priest I served under often chuckled, "I don't do any work." Indeed, he didn't.

    Aside from my part-time position at the parish (we all know that part-time means "part-time pay" but still "full-time work"), I have a lengthy flourishing career in the entertainment industry. I'll be fine. I have worked with notable entertainment legends and I have great doors of opportunity awaiting. But, as I have often mentioned to our parishioners, of all the honors ever bestowed on me, nothing....NOTHING...compares to the honor of accompanying the voice of God's people singing praises. I've always said that the accompanist "has the best seat in the house," usually positioned somewhere between the choir and the congregation. It is likely I will be experiencing this for the last time on my final day of service at this parish. This, above all, has me sad beyond words. I relished and treasured the sound as well as the meaning of those moments.

    It's true, "to everything there is a season." The parish will be sad of my leaving but within a few months they will have a new, exciting and lovable new music director. And they will fall in love with her or him, and I will make myself available to help them succeed if they need backstory or just an ear to listen. Parishes do that. They go through "the sky is falling" phase and soon find themselves enamored with the new music director.

    And I will be on to new career and travel adventures that have been laid aside for decades during my service to this parish. More than these, I may catch up on 20 years of missing family gatherings I gave up for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day to serve at Masses.

    It's a unique trait of parish music directors. This is what we do.

    And is the place where we all understand this concept, and each other.

    I hope this thread of conversation serves as a reminder to anyone serving in an isolated situation that "your time of service matters, your time of service will have a point of conclusion, and YOUR life matters in the greater picture."

    Thank you all for being here. May God bless you all.

  • Carol
    Posts: 700
    I have a feeling you could find yourself on the organ bench again some time. You obviously have a love of it. No other music making will compare to it. But God bless you for now, and may your sabbatical be a fruitful one.