Marge Fenelon, Priest, Catholic Church

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Last night, we had one of our parish priests over for dinner. I made a simple meal, and it was a very low-key affair that we all immensely enjoyed.

This was the first time Father had been to our house, and our first real opportunity to get to know one another. We talked, laughed, ate, and shared stories about our backgrounds and families. The story of how he’d discovered his vocation was truly engaging. Father was very grateful for our invitation and we were delighted that he’d accepted.

One thing did disturb me, however. Father mentioned that it’s not as common as it used to be for families to invite parish priests to share a meal at home with them. In fact, it doesn’t happen very often at all.

That grieves me terribly!

Our priests leave behind the families in which they were raised, forsake having families of their own, and commit themselves to serving Christ – and us – in a ministry that is all-encompassing and demanding. They’re people, too, and have a need to feel welcomed and to experience a sense of family just as we do.

I often hear comments from folks who are reticent to invite their priests to dinner because they fear they’ll be “too nervous” or won’t “make a good impression” or even that they’ll “be judged.” They worry they won’t be able to find anything to talk about. At least in my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Over the years, we’ve had many, many priests come to our home to share a meal and companionship – family time, if you will. True, some priests are more shy than others and therefore aren’t as relaxed joining in a family dinner. But those examples are rare.

I can say with complete certitude that we have never, ever, regretted having a priest to our home.

I daresay you won’t, either.

Our priests not only need, but also they deserve for us to show our love and appreciation for them. No matter if we are or aren’t on the same page with them, so to speak, in terms of how they handle things at the parish or what they say at the pulpit. It’s not about parish politics or homily content; it’s about acknowledging them as children of God who are striving in their vocations and doing the best they can in the work God has given them to do. It’s about extending Christian love and charity to them because they’re human beings in need of support.

Some will decline your invitations, and that’s okay. Some might have schedules so packed that a dinner date is nearly impossible. So, how about brunch? How about lunch? How about inviting him over or taking him out for coffee? The main point is offering hospitality in whatever form works for you and him.

All of that being said, I have five reasons why you should invite your priest to dinner.

  1. It’s a way to show your appreciation for all that he is and does. It needn’t be a fancy meal or a formal event. In fact, our experience is that the priests who have come to our house have enjoyed it because it was simple, laid-back, and low-key with a family atmosphere in which they could relax and feel at home.
  2. It will be a mutually enriching experience. Everyone has a backstory. Everyone has insights about the Faith. Everyone has life experiences to share. I’ll bet you can learn wonderful things from your priest and that he can learn wonderful things from you that are more easily shared in family setting than at the back of church after Mass.
  3. It’s a way to encourage vocations. Supporting our priests means supporting their vocations. When a priest – or anyone, for that matter – feels supported, appreciated, and encouraged, they’re far better able to live their vocations with authenticity and fervor. If you have children (or grandchildren), they’ll get the message that priestly and religious vocations are honorable and vital. It sends a message to friends and neighbors that you value your priests, which in turn helps them to value the priestly vocation.
  4. It’s a way to give back to the parish. When we support our priests, we support our parish and by association, the Church. When a priest feels loved and fortified, he’s better able to serve in his capacity. This is true, by the way, of priests of all kinds – those acting as parish priests but also those who are members of religious orders and serve God’s people in other capacities.
  5. It’s an act of Christian charity and a corporal work of mercy. Face it. Priests are busy, busy guys who seldom have time – or energy – to cook for themselves. They’re on the go, expending their energies for our sakes. Occasionally, priests will have parishioners who will drop off meals for them (another way to support your priests, hint, hint), or they may be able to hire someone to come in at intervals, cook, and store meals in the freezer for them. A real, freshly home-cooked meal can be a real treat, a great reward and blessing for a priest who isn’t able to cook for himself.

Please. Get over your hang-ups, stop worrying or assuming, and give it a try. Invite your parish priest for dinner. If he can’t do dinner, try lunch or going out for coffee. Yup, it could feel a teeny bit awkward at first. So what? We’re all human, and your priest knows that as well as you do. But, if you only dare to extend a hand of friendship and appreciation to him, you’ll be bountifully rewarded and so will he.


Cathy · November 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

It is not so easy to get the priest to have a coffee get together,but Marge if you are serving up this dish pictured,do put me on your dinner list….Do you have a recipe??

Judy · November 2, 2017 at 9:26 am

When our kids were little a young priest who is an only child used to come over to our house. He was astounded at the cost of baby formula, shoes, clothes, etc. We also shared our adoption story with him. Subsequently, he invited me a couple of times to come to his high school marriage class to share our story.

Shane · November 20, 2019 at 8:41 am

I wouldn’t feel the slightest the need to invite a priest to dinner. Number one I am an agnostic, leaning more toward atheism having woken up from the dilusion of religion, largely thanks to Richard Dawkins wonderful books. But secondly priests have a handy cushy life, they are well looked after by the church, certainly where I am from they are, but also they are not elite so I certainly don’t know why anyone would be ‘nervous’ to invite them over? Fair play to you for seeing the priests as somehow superior but in my mind this is nonsense. They are just people like you and I, no magic powers or any of that nonsense.

    Marge Fenelon · January 3, 2020 at 9:30 am

    True, Shane. Priests don’t have magic powers. However, they are deserving of respect because of their Ordination. As an agnostic, this understandably is difficult for you to understand. It’s something that has to be seen in the light of faith. Also, most priests don’t live cushy lives, but work hard and sacrifice to draw others to Christ. The media has painted a very ugly picture of the priesthood, using an abusive minority as the stereotype for all clergy, which is not accurate. Nonetheless, I thank you for your comment.

      Kerry · October 24, 2021 at 5:50 pm

      How do you set a date for a priest to come over to have a meal with your family? Do you ask the priest what availability he has? And frantically clean the house if he says tomorrow?!? 😃 I hope my family can have our priest over sometime. Just not sure how to go about setting a day because I want to make sure I’m prepared with a good meal and clean house.

        Marge Fenelon · November 1, 2021 at 2:34 pm

        Kerry, in my experience, priests seldom have the luxury of next-day appointments. We always ask the priest about his availability and do our best to meet that.

Anna Nuzzo · March 29, 2020 at 6:45 pm

This is such a wonderful article! I have many friends that are priests. And we have invited many over to our home for dinner with our family or friends and taken them out for social gatherings with meals. It’s a blessing to break bread with them and grow in fellowship. I hope your article will encourage many to get to know their priests on a personal level. And over a meal is a great way to begin to do that.

blondine · July 28, 2021 at 10:33 am

what about the young priest who is of a different culture and is lonely for home; are there etiquette rules of asking him out or him asking a woman out for lunch! i would not venture to say i am confortable with that and never have had that type of relationship with any priest in many yrs!

    Marge Fenelon · August 2, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you for your question, Blondine. My instinct tells me that it would not be a good idea for any kind of one-on-one between a priest and woman socially in a situation like this. My advice would be to invite one or two other people. If the priest asks a woman out to lunch, the woman should ask to invite another person and then she and the other guest should pay for the meal. God bless you and all that you do!

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