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Project of the Week—Pastoral Psychology for Priests in the Czech Republic

Courses in pastoral psychology for priests in the archdiocese of Prague

Since 2012 the Archdiocese of Prague has been giving 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 received any prior training in psychology during their formation and find themselves confronted more frequently in their pastoral work with problems requiring psychological understanding and experience to complement their existing spiritual formation, in order to adequately help those seeking their counsel.

In addition, it is also proven advantageous for priests to gain a better understanding of themselves and their dynamics with others and so making them better equipped to deal with their own problems and emotions which supports avoiding many pitfalls that might affect them—such as exhaustion and burnout, disillusionment and frustration—which in the most extreme cases might otherwise leave a priest unable to continue practising his ministry or in some cases unable to fully and wholeheartedly commit himself to the service of God and his human beings.

Given the scandals related to abuses by some clergy, the need for this kind of formation has become extremely relevant and crucial to the training of priests and healthy interactions with those who will seek their guidance. The growing awareness of the inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by some priests has demonstrated the potential danger posed by the abuse of authority—not solely with regard to minors but any vulnerable persons in relationships of trust with them.

Recognition of early warning signs, and a greater awareness of the impact on one’s own behaviour on the other is therefore critically important.

On average, between 10 and 12 priests and deacons take part in these courses spread over the course of three and a half years. There are four meetings each year, each lasting from 2 to 5 days and involving both theoretical and practical aspects. The courses are given by a professional psychologist and by Father Pavel Pola, a Carmelite priest with experience in pastoral psychology.

Each of the priests pays a small contribution towards the cost, but since priests in the Czech Republic have very limited financial means, the course fees have to be kept affordable. Because it is not possible for the priests to cover all the costs involved, ACN is proposing to support these crucial formations with a contribution of $5,800 for the year 2021.

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