Since 2012 the Archdiocese of Prague has been running courses in pastoral psychology for priests, courses conceived and run by the Carmelite Fathers of Prague. The response to these courses has been very positive and the demand is high. For many priests have not been given any training in psychology during their formation and find themselves confronted more and more in their pastoral work with with problems which require psychological understanding and experience, in addition to their existing spiritual formation, in order to be able to adequately help those who come seeking their counsel.
Quite apart from this, it is also advantageous for the priests themselves to be able to better understand themselves and other people and thus be more able to cope with their own problems and emotions. This helps them to avoid many of the pitfalls that can soon affect them – such as exhaustion and burnout, disillusionment and frustration – which can otherwise in the most extreme cases leave a priest unable to continue exercising his ministry or unable to fully and wholeheartedly commit himself to the service of God and his fellow men.
This is likewise a highly relevant issue, given the scandal of priestly abuse and the generally much greater awareness of the problem of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour and the danger of abuse of authority – not only in regard to minors, but in regard to all vulnerable persons who come seeking advice and help. Recognising the early warning signals and having a greater awareness of the impact on one‘s own behaviour is therefore crucially important in this context.
Usually, somewhere between 10 and 12 priests and deacons take part in these courses, which are spread over the course of 3 ½ years. There are four meetings each year, each lasting from 2 to 5 days and involving both theoretical and practical aspects. They are conducted by a professional psychologist and by Father Pavel Pola, a Carmelite priests with experience in pastoral psychology.
Each of the priests pays a small contribution towards the cost of the course, but since priests in the Czech Republic have very limited financial means, the course fees have to be kept as low as possible. Hence it is not possible to cover all the costs involved, and consequently ACN is proposing to support the courses with a contribution of 4000 Euros for the year 2021.