Lightning flashed in the sky above Clinton’s riverfront and a life guard could be heard from the municipal swimming pool instructing everyone to get out of the water. I had just pulled into the parking lot by the pool, with camera bag on the passenger’s seat, to meet Father Ken Kuntz for a photo shoot. Fr. Kuntz, pastor of
Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, agreed to be photographed on his daily walk along the riverfront for an article on the updating of the Davenport Diocese’s health and wellness document for priests. The approaching rain looked like it would put a damper on the visual for my story, but divine intervention kept the clouds zipped up!
Fr. Kuntz strolled by the popular Clinton Showboat Theatre, an 81-year-old converted riverboat where a performance was underway. Ominous-looking clouds gave the riverfront setting a moody look as I took pictures of the priest, dressed comfortably in khaki pants, a white T-shirt and yellow baseball cap. When we finished the photo shoot, Fr. Kuntz showed me a rosary ring that he carries with him on his walks, pairing physical and spiritual well-being.
Making time to exercise and to prepare nutritious meals can be challenging, but beneficial for responding to the demands of ministry, he believes. During his leadership of the diocese’s Presbyteral Council, a group of priests elected to represent their fellow priests, he asked for a review of the 2004 health and wellness document. The document explores priestly life and ministry in four areas: intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral. Bishop Martin Amos shared the most recent draft of the update with the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) earlier this month.
The bishop mentioned to the DPC that busy priests, traveling from one meeting to the next, may opt for a quick meal at a fast-food drive-up. While Bishop Amos didn’t specify what a priest might order at the drive-up, everyone knows that double-cheese burgers, fries and milk shakes can be tempting on an empty stomach and the stress of a long to-do list.
Why not encourage parishioners to help out? Invite Father over for a meal, or offer to take him out for dinner, someone suggested at the DPC meeting. Someone else, who enjoys cooking, said she’d be glad to prepare a dish for her pastor. I shared that conversation with Fr. Kuntz who remembered back in the day when parishes had housekeepers who prepared meals and cleaned the rectory. Those days are long gone, but I wondered whether elements of them could be adapted to present-day needs.
What if a parish created a list of parishioners to sign up to make a casserole or a pot of soup once a month that the pastor could stick in the fridge or freezer? What if a group of high school students, on a rotating basis, volunteered to prepare a meal for the pastor? Think about the number of times your parish has activities at which food is served in the parish hall. Do you save leftovers for Father? A friend of mine, after a celebration at our parish, mentioned that our pastor enjoys homemade soup. My husband Steve made soup several times and received the empty containers back in a bag with a sticky note that read “Thank you!” We assume that Father would welcome more soup!
Obviously, these suggestions require more time, talent and treasure from parishioners who may be feeling overcommitted themselves. And who am I, the non-cook, to encourage others to prepare a casserole for Father? But I know how to hard-boil eggs, chop vegetables, prepare tuna salad and make great fruit smoothies. For the well-being of our priests, maybe it’s time to serve them as they serve us.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)