The Catholic University of America

Oct. 7, 2011

Symposium Reports on the Happiness of Priests

  Priesthood Symposium

Cardinal Donald Wuerl leads the Symposium on the Priesthood in morning prayer.

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The author of a groundbreaking study on the clergy told a large audience at The Catholic University of America that 90 percent of priests report they are happy. He identified a number of factors contributing to happiness in the priesthood such as a sense of inner peace, a positive view of celibacy, and a good relationship with God.

Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, author of Why Priests Are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests, noted that close friendships with fellow clergy and members of the laity also correlated with higher levels of happiness.

Monsignor Rossetti, clinical associate professor of pastoral studies and associate dean for seminary and ministerial programs at Catholic University, presented his findings Oct. 5 at the Symposium on the Priesthood, held in the Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. The event drew more than 320 priests and seminarians.

A leading American authority on the Catholic priesthood, Monsignor Rossetti worked for 17 years at Saint Luke Institute, an internationally renowned treatment and education center dedicated to bringing the healing ministry of Christ to Catholic clergy and men and women religious in need.

Priesthood Symposium  
Monsignor Rossetti reports on the happiness of priests to more than 320 priests and seminarians.


Monsignor Rossetti said his study found that priests have an exceptionally high degree of happiness. His data indicating that 90 percent of priests are happy is corroborated by several other studies of the Catholic priesthood including a 2006 National Opinion Research Center survey of 27,000 Americans that reports clergy enjoy the highest level of job satisfaction in America.

John Garvey, President of Catholic University, welcomed the attendees who included many alumni of Theological College, the national diocesan seminary of CUA. Garvey expressed his personal appreciation for the priesthood, saying “without [priests] the practice of our faith would wither and die.”

He also noted the important role that priests play in the lives of students at Catholic University, mentioning plans to increase the number of priests living in residence halls on campus.

Monsignor Rossetti’s study also found that happy priests frequently had a good relationship with their local bishop. Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory, archbishop of Atlanta, expanded on this theme in his lecture. He recognized the important role that encouragement from the bishop plays in sustaining a priest. Likewise, he added, a priest’s successes in parish life are sources of joy for a bishop.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor who offered the morning prayer at the symposium, noted that the ministry of Pope John Paul II has brought the priesthood to a “new moment.”

  Priesthood Symposium
  Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory offers reflections on being a diocesan bishop.

He encouraged the priests in attendance to celebrate their identity as priests, and to find joy in their calling. Monsignor Rossetti added that secular thinking often equates religion with unhappiness and a denial of one’s humanity. However, the results of his study demonstrate that true happiness is found in a lively faith that includes an awareness of God’s personal love. The happiness of priests is a challenge to secular thinking and the most effective instrument of evangelization.

The symposium also featured presentations by Joseph M. White, associate professor of Church History at CUA, and Monsignor Robert J. Panke, rector of the Blessed John Paul II Seminary. The event was cosponsored by Catholic University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, the Associated Sulpicians of the U.S., the Saint Luke Institute, and Theological College. 



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