Growing up, priests were a constant presence in my house. My parents were very diligent in cultivating relationships with the priests at our parish, even as we moved across the country and around the world. Perhaps more notably, they made sure to continue these relationships, even when a particular priest was reassigned or we moved. I think that having the opportunity to get to know our priests on a more personal level, besides just seeing them at Mass, was instrumental in me discerning a possible vocation to the priestly life. Knowing them, I was able to better see myself being one of them.
Our parish priests are the leaders of our communities and we should be taking care of them by opening our hearts and homes to them. It's our duty, as the faithful, to welcome them into our family and to share the joys of life with them.
The life of a priest, like the life of any person, can be difficult and lonely at times. While they may have joined the diocese that they grew up in, they may still not have as much time as they'd like to spend with their own families. Priests should be considered members of our families. They are to care for our spiritual health and we are to tend to their material needs. One of the ways to integrate your parish priests into the life of your family is to do as my parents did, and invite them to participate in your family's life. Certainly they won't be able to all the time, but when they do, it can be a very refreshing experience for them. They'll be able to get out of the rectory and do something relaxing. They won't have to run a meeting, manage conflict, or hear a litany of complaints. Instead, they'll get to share in the beauty of family life. Have them over to dinner often and invite them to your family's celebrations.
Another great way to support our priests is to observe their special days. Find out when his birthday is and give him a thoughtful present. Celebrate his ordination anniversary in some special way. Find out the other days that are important to him, perhaps a nice note or card on the anniversary of his parent's death.
Most importantly, continue to build the relationship beyond assignments. From time to time, the Bishop will reassign priests for various reasons, based on the needs of the community. When you build a relationship, especially in modern times, it's natural to just let it fizzle when someone moves away. Certainly he'll have new responsibilities and new families to mingle with. I’d encourage you to stay in touch. Be a constant friend and support network for him. He may face an issue that he doesn't feel comfortable discussing with his parish, or he may be sent to a parish that isn't able to support their own basic needs and you may be able to help. Preserve the familial bond that has been formed between him and your family.
I think the most important part of this whole idea of supporting our priests comes back to my own experience. You’re teaching your children something important. First, you're fostering in their minds that they might be called to the priestly or religious life. Second, you're modeling for your children how the faithful is called to care for those among us who have laid down their lives in sacrifice for us as priests.