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Rising Above Resistance – Practical Guidance for Music Ministers Facing Unsupportive Priests

There’s no easy way to bring to light the fact that some lay people exercising their ministry within the church do so under duress because of a non-supportive priest or a priest who presents himself as superior to you. I have personally taken far too many calls or engaged in countless conversations with music ministers who struggle with a ‘difficult’ priest on a regular basis. This blog aims to offer support and insight if you are faced with this challenge in your parish.

As a dedicated volunteer music minister in the Catholic Church, you are a vital part of the fabric that makes our parishes vibrant and faith-filled. Your tireless efforts to bring sacred music to the liturgy are a true blessing, enriching the worship experience for all who gather. However, we know that navigating the dynamics of working with an authoritarian priest who is resistant to your musical vision can be incredibly challenging.

Far too often, parish musicians and singers face criticism, a lack of support, and even disregard for their expertise and experience. It can be disheartening to pour your heart into selecting music that uplifts the congregation, only to have your choices dismissed or even overruled by a priest who doesn’t seem to value your ministry.

We see you. We appreciate you. And we want you to know that your service is invaluable, even in the face of such obstacles.

Your Dedication Is a Gift

Each week, you selflessly donate your time, talent, and passion to ensure that the music at Mass is a reflection of the beauty of our faith. Whether you’ve been serving in this role for years or are relatively new to it, your commitment is a testament to your love for the Church and your desire to glorify God through sacred music.

Far too often, your tireless efforts go unnoticed or unacknowledged. But we want you to know that your parish community recognises the incredible value you bring. Your music ministry nourishes the spiritual lives of the faithful, lifting their hearts and minds to the divine. Your service is a true gift, and we are grateful for your willingness to share it.

Navigating Difficult Dynamics
We understand that working with a priest who is unwilling to listen or collaborate can be incredibly frustrating. Their authoritarian approach and lack of support can leave you feeling demoralised and unsure of how to move forward.

Here are some practical tips that may help as you navigate this challenge:

  1. Communicate! Approach the priest with humility and respect. Remember that you are both working towards the same goal of serving the community. Try to find common ground and emphasise your shared desire to enhance the liturgy.
  2. Document your music selections and the reasoning behind them. Provide a clear rationale for your choices, highlighting how they align with liturgical principles and connect with the readings and themes of the day.
  3. Seek the support of your parish community. Gather testimonials from parishioners who have been positively impacted by your music ministry. Present these to the priest as evidence of the value you bring.
  4. Educate the priest on copyright laws and the importance of compliance. Offer to assist with the administrative tasks of obtaining necessary permissions and licenses.
  5. Suggest regular meetings to discuss the music program and address any concerns. This open dialogue can help foster a collaborative spirit and a deeper understanding of your respective roles.
  6. If you have reached an uimprenitative situation, have courage and take your concerns to a higher authority such as the diocesan liturgy office or your Bishop.

Remember, you have a right to exercise your ministry. Your parish needs you! Your music ministry is a vital component of the liturgical life of the community. Even in the face of adversity, continue to approach your work with joy and a steadfast commitment to serving God and your community. Pray for guidance and for patience!

You are not alone in this journey. There are countless other music ministers across Australia who share your experiences and your passion. Reach out to colleagues, join support groups, and draw strength from one another. Together, we can navigate these challenges and continue to enrich the lives of the faithful through the power of sacred music.

2 thoughts on “Rising Above Resistance – Practical Guidance for Music Ministers Facing Unsupportive Priests

  1. Penny Folds says:

    We have employed your tips Nos 1 to 5 to no avail. We are now thinking of point No. 6 because we cannot find common ground with our parish priest of one year. Four parish priests before him over 50 years never disrespected the members of the music ministry like the current priest. Our parishioners will suffer when musicians/singers resign from their ministry, sure hope it doesn’t get to that.

    • Monica O'Brien says:

      I’m so sorry you and the team are dealing with this issue. I think the only recourse is for you to seriously consider #6. There seems to be the need for mediation. Perhaps you can get together as a group and formulate your thoughts and present as a united voice.

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