S04 Ep12 – When a Shepherd Leaves His Flock w/ Grace Morey


00:00 – 01:49 = Intro

01:50 – 03:15 = introduction and context (silence in the church and its impact).

03:16 – 06:24 = what happens when a priest leaves/left the church?

06:25 – 10:04 = what are the impacts of perpetual silence?

10:05 – 22:50 = the pain after father leaves and feeling of isolation.

22:51 – 34:43 = what we can do as a community to heal?

34:44 – 37:08 = Truth, beauty and goodness.

37:09 – 37:25 = Closing.

Caveat – a sensitive and painful topic for some

In this episode we’ll be covering something we’ve not spoken about on the podcast before, and something all three of us have noticed is a point of silence in the Church. 

‘When a shepherd leaves his flock.’ 

Each of us here have had a personal experience of this happening, but we won’t be focusing on those stories in this episode. We’re not here to point fingers, blame or justify any one’s decisions or reasons for a pastor to leave his church. What we want to do is open up a space where we can talk about the impact of that and how do we move forward from here. 

What have you noticed about this space?

We don’t talk about it much! 

Life is busy – we get on with life, parish life, ministry we push forward

Sometimes there is a feeling that is doesn’t affect me personally, therefore I should be OK (but we are the Body of Christ so it does affect us) 

Pain across all corners. Seminarians’ pain, pain among the clergy, pain among the laity. It’s utterly painful.

There’s a measure of ‘secrecy’ (not purposeful) there, but it’s actually because of simply silence, that there’s no conversation.

The family has taken some serious hits recently. How is this pain experienced?

‘Name the pain’ to help heal.

There’s a big gap, nothing available, no structure available, so left with big emotions, at a loss with what to do with the emotions.

I have felt like I have heaps of questions but nowhere to ask them 

Pin all our hopes on the new, “superhuman” pastor 

Q2. What is the impact and what are we missing from this process? – Shock, Grief, abandonment, denial – healing, journeying with people 

It can really rock us. It’s similar feeling to what I would have if my father left me. (Grace)

A priest is a spiritual father. Can have a feeling of abandonment.

(Can be heartbreaking)

It’s healthy to feel sad (say a priest has to do the routine move, as is expected of them). But can be a different unfamiliar feeling when they leave their vocation and church

Many questions come up! E.g. Pastoral issues and projects that may have been founded by them…what to do as a parish and community now?)

Something that should be emphasised in formation is that the title of ‘Father’ is not for the priests benefit, but for the people of God.

It’s like a father leaving a family, there’s a breakdown of the family, and normally a family may come together as a unit, but this doesn’t or hasn’t happened as a community.

The silence can keep re-wounding us.

For any pastors or priests who left the active missionary, there may be a very compelling reason, but no reason for the scandal of hurt, for not addressing the hurt.

If we don’t talk about it, then we think we personally feeling over-sensitive, rather than acknowledging the hurt for everyone.

The question is, who do we ask to open the conversation with, to not cause gossip? But to have a healthy discussion. – The person who we would go to talk to about this issue are the one who may have left!

Unlike protestant groups, the priest’s role is sacramentally cemented, not just person-to-person.

Pastors are often present for the most important and intimate moments of our lives (Marriage, Reconciliation, spiritual direction) and so they will be a part of our story,

Whether it feels like it or not, they shared in profound moments, even if it is just for these sacraments.

Seminarians looking at others who may have left the priesthood, feels like no one can make it. When we have admired people who hold the office and they leave, it can sow seeds of doubt to our own faith or mission.

But important to not let go of prayer life and/or relationships – this is often the reason the priest leaves, dropping these good habits.

It’s really hard and embarrassing as laity when trying to be a good witness to the people outside the Church, but can give no answers, when they ask questions. They’re asking all sorts of questions of us that we can’t answer, because we don’t know and the Church is remaining silent.

Catholic Church is like a big beautiful shipwreck, so beautiful and majestic but not as clean and simple as some of our protestant congregations. It’s so old and complicated!

Focussing on healing – our gaze must always go back on Christ.

Q3. What can we as community do?

The very word ‘community’ is important – us as brothers and sisters checking on each other.

Remembering that it is Jesus who heals us – that the Father heals us. Father wounds are healed by the Father!

We may find ourselves shifting parishes and going to a church, or Mass hoping it will stay solid and nothing will crumble – trying to control, after we felt the loss of control. But that won’t heal us, or our wounds. We are not immune once we start trusting in any human’s abilities.

Padre – to my brother priests.

Open up a conversation with our parishioners – being vulnerable to the best degree.

There are stories of priests leaving active ministry to have space and get help – we can give some context to help others know what might be going on in varying degrees. Use discretion to decide what is appropriate to say.

And keep up with spiritual lives, and solid relationships.

For everyone, maybe reach out to beyond your immediate community, because all your community might be hurting. So maybe need someone from a different parish to listen, and be present with you.

Use prayer to acknowledge our feelings, and ask how Father can father us, being specific and intentional about our prayers in these difficult times. How to heal and be vulnerable with Christ – that’s how we grow in intimacy with Him.

Can be hard to evangelise during these times, but we can be honest and authentic. The Church is a hospital, in that way it can be an evangelisation tool in a different way. Everyone has a father wound in some way.

We can’t close ourselves off, and not stop trusting others, or opening ourselves up again, because of a past hurt. Remember to open up again, that is part of healing.


Grace –  Adoration Play Group – first hour half the Mum’s get to go to the Adoration chapel and then 2nd hour other mum’s can go.

Stina – Wild at Heart – Mini Online retreat 

Padre – Evangeline Morey

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