Study: Priests Are Happy

Priest-author says 90% of clergy have found happiness in their vocations.

(photo: Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON (EWTN News) — Ninety percent of priests say they are happy. One priest who has studied priests’ happiness says a feeling of inner peace, a positive view of celibacy, and a good relationship with God contributes to their happiness.

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, clinical associate professor of pastoral studies and associate dean for seminary and ministerial programs at Catholic University of America, presented his findings Oct. 5 at a symposium on the priesthood held at Catholic University in Washington. He discusses his findings in his book Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests.

Other studies corroborate his findings on priests’ happiness. A 2006 National Opinion Research Center survey of 27,000 Americans reported clergy enjoy the highest level of job satisfaction in America.

Msgr. Rossetti said that secular thinking often equates religion with unhappiness and a denial of one’s humanity. However, his study shows that true happiness is found in a lively faith that includes an awareness of God’s personal love.

He said the happiness of priests is a challenge to secular thinking and can be the most effective instrument of evangelization.

Close friendships with fellow clergy and members of the laity also correlated with higher levels of clergy happiness, he found. Happy priests frequently have a good relationship with their local bishop.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta expanded on priests’ relationship with their bishop in his own remarks at the symposium. A bishop’s encouragement plays an important role in sustaining a priest, and priests’ successes in parish life are sources of joy for a bishop.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Catholic University’s chancellor, encouraged the priests in attendance to celebrate their identity and to find joy in their vocation.

The university’s president, John Garvey, welcomed the symposium attendees, many of whom were alumni of the university’s theological college.

Without priests, he said, “the practice of our faith would wither and die.”

Garvey said priests play an important role in the lives of Catholic University students, and he plans to increase the number of priests living in residence halls on campus.