Friday, July 6, 2012
HOW TO ADDRESS A PRIEST
When I was living and ministering in the US mainland a few years ago, people there in the traditional Mass communities found it very difficult to call me "Father Eric." This was because the tradition is to call priests by their last names; e.g. Father Smith, Father Jones, Father Baker.
But the Capuchins, and a few other religious Orders, are different. Our tradition is NEVER to use our last names. The reason? Because, when we joined the Order, we left the world. Diocesan priests in a sense remain in the world because they are able to own their own property, have full use of their income and can inherit from their natural families. We Capuchins do not.
Our last names reveal our natural origins; our natural families, our race and sometimes even our social standing depending on the culture. As Franciscans, we have left all that behind and are brothers (the meaning of "friar") to everyone, regardless of family, race or social status.
So Capuchins traditionally are known by the town they were born in or associated with; Francis of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, Pio of Pietrelcina. Before Vatican II, I would only be known as Father Eric of Sinajana, and I sometimes call myself that when I write books or articles. Mostly, I just go by Pale' Eric as I am the only priest with that first name here. You may notice that I avoid using my last name as much as possible.
But the traditional thing to do with diocesan (secular) priests and some priests of religious communities (like the Jesuits) is to call them by their last names : e.g. Msgr. Quitugua, Father Cristobal, Father McGrath, Father Moreau.
On Guam, because the Capuchins were at one time the majority of the clergy, the local people got used to calling all priests, even the diocesans, by their first names, but this is not the tradition.