Fr. Chris Clay
Pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Even though he finished seminary and was ordained for the
Diocese of Lexington in 2007, Fr. Chris Clay still spends a lot of
time at Saint Meinrad. Now the pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in
Lawrenceburg, KY, he returns regularly to take part in programs
offered by Saint Meinrad's Institute for Priests and Presbyterates
(IPP), a program of ongoing formation for priests.
After graduating from Saint Meinrad, Fr. Chris spent two years
as an associate pastor at the Cathedral of Christ the King in
Lexington, and was made pastor of St. Lawrence in July 2009.
"The adjustment was anxiety raising," he says. "Seminary was a
comprehensive formation program to become a priest. But there are
aspects of [being a priest] that it can't prepare you for, like
leading a parish, managing a staff, planning a mission or coming up
with an ongoing plan for your parish. Those things weren't
addressed in seminary and, really, you can only get into them once
you're in the parish and know what types of things you're going to
While serving as an associate pastor, he attended the IPP's
"Settling into Priesthood" workshop and both parts of the two-year
"Gearing Up to be a Pastor" workshop. He found both beneficial as
he transitioned from seminary into his first assignment as a
priest. Just three months into his assignment as pastor at St.
Lawrence, Fr. Chris attended the first part of the "New Pastors"
"It came at a perfect time to get way," he says. "First of all,
to have some courses that would be a benefit in that new position
as a pastor and, secondly, to have some time for fellowship with
other priests-to spend time with them and hear how they were doing.
I also learned how to take care of myself-how to live that balanced
life. It's always the temptation, starting out as a new pastor, to
go full-bore and just burn out."
Fr. Chris says the IPP offered him practical advice, not just on
his ministry, but on everyday things like exercise, nutrition and
preparing healthy meals. "All of these things have helped me care
for myself so that I can be more present and more giving in serving
the people of God here in St. Lawrence."
Fr. Chris says his first assignment as a pastor, in many ways,
has been ideal. He serves a small community of about 300 families,
celebrating one Spanish and two English Masses each week. The
community is rural, but still close to the larger cities of
Louisville, Frankfort and Lexington.
Yet St. Lawrence, like most parishes, has its challenges. Fr.
Chris is currently working on a five-year plan for the parish that
will help to solidify its vision and goals. "This was something
that came to mind as necessary even before going to the IPP," says
Fr. Chris. "But the IPP made it more concrete in my mind. We were
looking to renovate the old church building. Fr. Ron Knott, in the
last IPP workshop I attended, talked about parish revitalization
and planning ahead and growing your parish. I've been able to use
some of the exercises he recommended in the workshop."
Fr. Chris also learned about his management style through the
IPP. A series of surveys and tests offered insight into management
style and motivating factors. "It was helpful to see how I work in
leading others and what some of my strengths and weaknesses are.
What are the ways I can lean on my staff-especially the things they
do well, that I might not do as well. It taught me how to be a good
manager. That's something that really takes time to grow into as a
pastor of a parish."
One of the highlights for Fr. Chris is coming back to Saint
Meinrad and sharing his experiences with others. "It's a real gift
to be able to see brother priests who I studied with at Saint
Meinrad," he says. "To hear how they're doing and hear their
stories and struggles...to have time for fellowship and continue
the relationships that began during my five years studying in
The IPP also encourages ongoing relationships with fellow
priests and the bishop within the diocese through its intentional
presbyterate programs. "I think it's made me more conscious of that
need to nurture relationships with my brother priests and celebrate
those times that we do come together," says Fr. Chris.
"IPP is giving me the tools to be a better spiritual leader for
the parish. It really aids the priest in taking serious the
continual formation in their lives. Without IPP, I'm not sure I
would be as effective a pastor as I am now."
about Continuing Education for Priests