EWTN Vocation Boom Radio’s Nic Scott talks with Fr. Tony, March 4, 2017

Nic Scott, with Vocation Boom Radio, talked to Fr. Tony for an hour on March 4th  about Fr. Tony’s vocation and his current work as President of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils (NFPC).

Fr. Tony began the conversation, in answer to Nic’s question about NFPC, by reviewing its history and founding nearly 50 years ago, in 1968, when Vatican II called for greater consultation between bishops and priests for diocesan governance.  NFPC was formed when a group of priests gathered in Chicago to share their best practices for how they were setting up and running these councils of priests and their bishops.

According to NFPC by-laws, all dioceses are members. Active members, who financially support NFPC’s work, grew to a high of 124 dioceses at one point. NFPC uses the councils as a vehicle to deliver goods and services to help all priests feel connected to one another so they don’t feel alone and can be more effective for their people.

Fr. Tony stressed that priests need support from brother priests as well as the laity.  Today’s priests have to do so much managing people and facilities that often all their energy “gets sucked right out” of them by these administrative tasks. They need to periodically get away and be with brother priests, who “understand us on a different level than our lay friends,” and talk and relax “and just not be the pastor for a while.”

When asked about his greatest joy in being a priest, Fr. Tony answered, “It always starts for me with the Eucharist….I get to do that every day.”  And also to bring love and fatherly care to the world, representing God: an amazing honor but also a heavy responsibility.

Fr. Tony provided helpful answers to two callers who had questions, one about the dynamic with a priest in the family, and another about being called to priesthood from pastoring in another denomination.

Then Nic asked Fr. Tony to share his vocation story, which he recounted from his youth through his ordination. “Soon as you know what God wants you to do and do it, the doors open. God has put me where I needed to be every step of the way.”

When asked if he ever had any doubts, Fr. Tony said, “..there’s always been doubts.  A vocation I think, is a constant calling, a constant yes.” Like with marriage, every morning you get up and you say yes all over again. “Every day I get up and say, Yes God I will be your priest again today. And it is only with his grace that I can do that. On the days I don’t particularly feel like it, I rely on his grace to get me through the day.”

Fr. Tony stressed that this is not just a singlular journey. Priests are on this journey with other men and this is where the fraternity comes in: communion, brotherhood, solidarity, NFPC’s mission. He said it is why he took the job as President of the NFPC.  “I knew from personal experience that I can’t keep this going alone.”

At 44:35 in the recording, talk moved to the NFPC convocation, this year in Anaheim, CA.  It is designed to provide relaxation, liturgy and prayer, and top notch speakers. The theme is Forging a Future with Pope Francis and speakers will include Bishop McElroy speaking on Priestly Ministry, Kevin Appleby on Immigration & Refugees, and Fr. Ken Simpson on reaching Millennials.  Fr. Luke Ballman will give an overview of vocations. Bishop Arturo Cepeda, our episcopal moderator, will celebrate the Convocation Liturgy.

There is more information on the Convocation and all aspects of NFPC at nfpc.org.  Fr. Tony encouraged all to sign up for our weekly e-letter, that includes news articles and thought provoking web blogs plus other helpful information, in a weekly post.

The Convocation is open to every priest in the US. Fr. Tony especially welcomed “our younger brothers,” the newly ordained, to hear their views.  For the laity listening to the broadcast, he encouraged them to go tell their pastor to take a few days off, and that the parish will be fine. If a matter of money, he urged parishioners to get a few people together and collect money and send your priest to Anaheim.

Nic asked Fr. Tony how to help motivate a man in taking the initial step when God is calling them to the priesthood.  Fr. Tony’s best advice was that until the bishop lays hands on you, nothing is irreversible.  Many think that if they start down the path, they can’t change their minds.  But the seminary is a place for discernment, and it’s okay to discern out. “God always holds the call until you’re ready to receive it.”

Fr. Tony interviewed for ‘In Person’ with Dina Marie Hale on Mater Dei Radio

Mater Dei Radio logoIn a conversational and informative hour long interview, Dina Marie Hale led Father Tony through a detailed discussion about his vocation journey, the rewards and struggles of priestly life, plus how the laity can support their priests and how the NFPC National Convocation of Priests plays a part in that support.

Fr. Tony discussed his life in the Catholic Church during his youth, his Navy service where he also worked as a lay minister and first felt God nudging him, and his work in Nashville after the Navy where he finally accepted the call in 1998. Although he admits his journey to the priesthood included saying “No” to his vocation several times, once he made the decision to enter the seminary, he wasn’t restless or searching anymore, it “just felt right.”

He attended seminary in his home diocese, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  Dina guided Fr. Tony through an interesting discussion on his time in the seminary and his discernment and development toward the priesthood, including the involvement of the Blessed Sacrament and Mary, as well as the response of his family and friends. Fr. Tony encouraged all listeners to not only pray for vocations, but to look out for young men 25 or 26 years old who seem restless and invite them to consider God’s call in their life and the possibility of the priesthood.

The talk moved into Fr. Tony’s serving as a professional consultant for St. John Vianney Center and the importance of retreats and time away for priests.  Fr. Tony is often called on to give talks at priestly diocesan retreats on various topics of interest.  Fr. Tony discussed how laity can help care for their priests.  “First and foremost.” says Fr. Tony, “always pray for your priests, every day.” And let them know they are being prayed for, it’s very encouraging. Priestly brotherhood is vitally important, and the laity need to assure the priest that it’s okay to leave the rectory, that they will take care of the parish and he can get away to be with brother priests.

Dina asked about the NFPC National Convocation of Priests, April 24-27 in Anaheim, CA.  Father Tony talked about the theme, the presenters and the practical topics designed so the priests will be able to take ideas back to their parishes. He stressed the importance of the priestly brotherhood at the Convocation and the warm welcome from priests across the country.  He was excited about a new addition to this year’s convocation: a panel discussion on topics of interest to priests, to share experiences and ideas and trade information.  The convocation is open to and for all Catholic priests and Fr. Tony welcomed all priests to come!

Fr. Tony closed with a prayer and a priestly blessing.

Jen Brown and Bruce McGregor on Spirit Radio’s “Spirit Mornings” discuss with Fr. Tony parish priests and what they face, February 13, 2017

Spirit Mornings JPEG (1)In an opening reference to NFPC, Fr. Tony begins by explaining that NFPC was founded almost 50 years ago to support priests’ councils, which were developed to promote greater consultation between the bishop and priests in the organization and governance of the diocese.

Jen moved on to discuss parish priests, asking about how many priests today have more than one parish. Fr. Tony discussed his four parishes and explained that as we progressively have fewer priests in the US, more priests begin with multiple parishes.

Different bishops approach this in different ways: some close small parishes and larger parishes absorb them, others have pastor sharing arrangements.  The thought is that people will be able to drive a little further to get to a church. The problem is people get emotionally attached to their church building. Priests have to refocus them and remind them that “it is the gospel of Jesus that we rally around and not a particular building.”

Bruce asked Fr. Tony, when do priests find the time to care for their health, pray, spend time with their family and friends, care for their personal needs?  Fr. Tony said he shares with his parishioners, “The thing that makes us Catholic is the Eucharist; and it is the person who can give us the Eucharist who actually is a most valuable resource.  So we have to take care of that resource just like any other.”

He continued, “You have to have your day off and it has to be sacrosanct…. The parish needs to know that the priest needs that day desperately to go visit his family, to go be with friends, to go lay on the beach, to throw a line into the water to fish.”

It is also important to have a healthy balance of good relationships, including a special connection with priest friends. Fr. Tony mentioned NFPC’s annual Convocation in April, this year in Anaheim, that is for him like a reunion: energizing to talk to brother priests and exchange ideas, to share information and relax with each other.

They talked about how often priests get together in their local dioceses.  Then when asked what are the biggest strains on parish priests, Fr. Tony replied “hands down” it is trying to be a Human Resources professional with no training for all the state and federal regulations. “I was trained for Sacraments. I was trained to be with my people. That’s what God’s is calling me to do, not to sit behind a desk and fill out forms.”

He recommends to parish priests that if administration is not your gift, find someone else that has that gift and let them do the paperwork so you can be with your people. It’s a way that the laity can help. He firmly believes “Let the laity do what they are called to do, so I can do what I am called to do.”

They discussed international priests, why so many are currently in the United States, and the importance of prayers for vocations. Fr. Tony said in addition to prayer, the laity should keep their eyes open and invite a young man to consider priesthood. “There is that wonderful gospel where Jesus goes out that last time to get workers and says why have you been standing here, and they said nobody’s called us.  And I think it’s important for the church to be on the lookout, the whole church to be on the lookout, and ask someone to think about it. Plant the seed.”

Fr. Tony recommends that you best support your parish priest when you make sure he knows that he can leave for his day off and that things are not going to fall apart, that he can take his vacation and you’ll take care of things while he’s gone, that he can go to the NFPC Convocation even.  If it’s a matter of money, chip in $10 or $20 so their priest can have this time to relax with brother priests.  Let your priest know “Father, we got this, Go. We want you to be healthy. We want you to be happy. Go.”

NFPC supports priests by supporting their councils. If the councils work well, then priests feel connected in their work and supported by their bishop, which is a priest’s number one relationship of importance. NFPC works to keep that relationship cultivated.  In their weekly news e-letter and in many other ways NFPC works to keep priests connected.

Father Tony speaks about the NFPC Convocation and some of the challenges of parish life with John Harper on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air, January 31, 2017

morning-air-thumb-270 (1)In a short interview that covered a lot of ground, Fr. Tony began by summarizing, “A lot of people, I think, aren’t really aware of all the things that we can provide on an ongoing basis…. We are a great resource for any sort of research that priests or a presbyterate needs to have done on just about any issue within the church.”

The discussion moved to the NFPC’s National Convocation of Priests, and Fr. Tony defined the focus based on the theme, Forging a Future with Pope Francis, as taking a look at how we move forward using Pope Francis’ vision. Presentations will include Bishop McElroy from San Diego to talk about the pastoral theology of Pope Francis, as well as presentations on immigration, millennials, and also CARA’s latest research on Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century.

John asks if there is a sense of hope among Catholics that church attendance will grow.  Fr. Tony suggests the challenge is in keeping the people focused forward “…show them there is hope in what God is asking us to do at this moment.”

As far as the younger generation, Fr. Tony believes millennials are “very focused on social justice issues, like the March for Life, and when we can provide them an opportunity to express their faith in a way that is substantial like that, they respond and they respond well.”

When asked how to incorporate new generations with those who want to hold on to the past, Father Tony summarizes, “We have to get past the incidentals and get back to the essentials.  That is the trick as a pastor, to remind people that it’s not about [the little incidentals] but really focus on the Eucharist, get our people back to what is the core of our Catholic faith. And once you can do that then they begin to dialog about… which incidentals feed [the essentials] and which are just fluff.

Fr. Tony explains he handles running the NFPC and four parishes in Ohio because of two sets of amazing staff! Dedicated lay people are so important to his work. The Diocese of Pittsburgh is starting a 2-year program to develop lay ecclesial ministers as part of management teams for their parishes. Fr. Tony hopes to spend time with them as this develops to see if NFPC can promote this process to other dioceses.

With the broad scope of Relevant Radio’s base, John asks how can those listening outside the U.S. help the NFPC? Fr. Tony encourages them to help their local priests and their national organizations for priests. He says encourage your priest to leave for a couple of days and go to annual meetings or meet with their brothers inside their diocese, that the parish won’t fall apart if they leave for a couple of days.  John says maybe even help fund a trip for your priest to the National Convocation. Agreed!

John and Fr. Tony dialogue about how this can build a vibrant parish community. The parish learns they can take over some of the priest’s workload and it makes for a more involved parish even when he gets back, helping build a great two-way exchange.

Fr. Tony: “When you do that, when you are in that dialog, then it builds a bond of love between the pastor and his people. You are no longer just a functionary for a group of people. You really are their spiritual father.”

Learn more about the NFPC and the National Convocation of Priests, April 24-27, 2017 in Anaheim, CA at nfpc.org

Father Tony Talks NFPC & the Convocation on the Archbishop’s Hour, Santa Fe

Logo---Small-2An interview with Father Tony, December 12, 2016 on Immaculate Heart Radio’s Archbishop’s Hour with Mary Woods.

This more in-depth interview is an informative look into how NFPC developed as a national organization for priests, and its current strength in connecting the entire U.S. presbyterate.

After an opening introduction of Father Tony, his four parishes, and his trip to Rome and the events surrounding the Consistory of Cardinals, Father Tony speaks about the beginnings of NFPC.

He discusses that with Vatican II came an emphasis on greater collaboration, resulting in the development of Priests’ Councils.  In 1968, NFPC was begun to collaborate and share information between councils.  The organization gained a voice with the bishops and NFPC was able to advocate for priests through the Priests’ Councils, including a just wage, a code of ministerial conduct and priest personnel boards.

Fr. Tony continues with how NFPC connects priests today, especially through the National Convocation of Priests.  This year’s theme is Forging a Future with Pope Francis.  He elaborates on how the Convocation will explore how to put Pope Francis’ words into practice, including presentations on interacting with millennials, immigration and welcoming refugees, and how to live out the priestly ministry.

Priests from all over the country attend, with “a mix of new guys and veterans.” Father Tony described it like a family reunion, seeing brothers, catching up, having some fun and laughter, and learning something.  “New guys get to see us be brothers together across diocesan lines.”  The convocation is open to all priests; more participants help “this wonderful interchange of ideas.”

Mary said how valuable this organization and convocation is for our priests, for that support and sense of brotherhood, and being in solidarity.  Fr. Tony agreed “When you have a priest who knows that he is being valued for being a priest, that he’s not alone, that there is a brother priest out there that can be called, or… our national office…we keep everyone connected.”

“We don’t want priests to feel alone or lonely; there are other priests a phone call or a click away that can be there for our brothers.”

A shout out to Santa Fe’s Fr. Tim Martinez, Board member of NFPC!

More information on the convocation is at nfpc.org.  Father Tony especially welcomes newer priests to come to the Convocation to get an introduction to the national presbyterate.  He encourages the laity to make sure your parish priest knows about this and encourage him to come to the convocation. Tell him it’s okay for him to leave and that you will handle things so he can be with his brothers.

Fr. Tony speaks on Spirit Radio (Nebraska), Spirit Mornings with Jen Brown and Bruce McGregor, December 5, 2016

spirit-mornings-jpegIn a brief but informative interview on Spirit Mornings radio show, Father Tony introduces what a priest council is, and how the NFPC supports all councils, historically and today.

Historically, the NFPC has made major inroads for priests, including regular salaries, benefits, due process, and priests’ personnel boards to name a few.  Today NFPC’s focus is on communication: breaking free of the “silos” of parishes and dioceses, reaching out to one another to address new issues facing priests, such as retirement issues, priests’ shortages, and welcoming international priests.

A capstone of this focus on reaching out and discussing issues is our National Convocation of Priests, held this year in Anaheim CA.  Fr. Tony feels it is like a ‘family reunion’ of brothers in Christ, truly a highlight of our work (details on our website).

Fr. Tony included a shout out to NFPC Board Member, Fr. Bryan Ernest from Grand Island, NE.

When asked how the laity can help their priests, Fr. Tony said first of all make them a meal; even if the priest enjoys cooking, they often don’t have time.  When it comes to the convocation, let your priests know they can leave for a few days and things will be fine; give them permission to get away.  He suggests it might also be helpful to take up a collection to help him with costs associated with attending the convocation.

Fr. Tony’s past with the U.S. Navy on a ballistic missile submarine has taught him organization skills and attention to detail, and also that no matter what happens in the parish, it will all work out because: “We’re not launching missiles!” Nobody is going to die; just take a breath.


morning-air-thumb-270Father Tony and John Harper speak in this Morning Air interview about priestly ministry and NFPC’s National Convocation of Priests.

Father Tony shares that although priests aren’t trained in administration, a good part of their work is just that, and it is time consuming and often very draining.  Priests need periods of relaxation.

The NFPC National Convocation for all priests is designed for prayer, learning, conversation with brother priests from across the U.S., and relaxation.  With the theme, Forging the Future with Pope Francis, speakers will discuss Priestly Ministry, Immigration, and connecting with Millennials, with the emphasis from Pope Francis on getting out from behind your desk and going to be with the people, ‘among the sheep.’

John asks Father Tony for his input on how to support your parish priest’s vocation, and Father Tony says one way is to encourage him to take his day off each week, and to also take time away from the parish for vacation or to spend with brother priests; give him permission to go.  Reassure him you can handle whatever comes up until he comes back.

In assisting multi-parish pastors, Father Tony encourages parishioners to understand they are all part of the bigger community, using the example of each parish being like individual children with gifts and talents, but all part of one family.

Inspired by the Spirit, John asks if it might be a good idea for parishioners to actually do a small fund raiser to provide their priests with the funds to attend the National Convocation of Priests.  Father Tony says, Absolutely!

Fr. Tony Cutcher talks with Gus Lloyd on the Catholic Channel’s Seize the Day, October 5, 2016

catholic-channel-soundcloud-logoFather Tony talks to listeners about his journey to the vocation of priesthood, which led to his serving as the current President of the NFPC.  He describes NFPC’s history and what they do today in service to all priests and bishops.

Father Tony goes on to stress the importance of the relationship between bishops and priests, as well as the importance of putting the right priest with the right parish, both areas in which NFPC offers programs.

He describes how NFPC addresses the vocation issue by supporting retention of current priests.  NFPC also assists with communication channels, and offers an opportunity for priests to relax and rejuvenate with brother priests through the yearly Convocation for all Priests, this year April 24-27, 2017 in Anaheim, CA.

Gus Lloyd closes by repeating Fr. Tony’s suggestion to let your parish priest know how much you appreciate him!

Immaculate Heart Radio interviewed Fr. Tim Martinez, NFPC Board Member, and President Fr. Tony Cutcher on The Archbishop’s Hour

Immac_RadImmaculate Heart Radio interviewed Fr. Tim Martinez, NFPC Board Member, and President Fr. Tony Cutcher on The Archbishop’s Hour with Mary Woods from their New Mexico Feed.   The interview gives a wonderful overview of the practical workings of the NFPC, as well as a great summary of what to expect at the 2016 National Annual Convocation of Priests in Indianapolis, April 18-21.

Fr. Tim explains that NFPC was initially established to exchange information between Priests’ Councils.  It has developed in many ways since that time but today its major function is still in promoting communication between dioceses and between priests.

Fr. Tony hopes that the Convocation will allow all the priests attending some much needed time for relaxation, so they can “go home renewed and reinvigorated for ministry having been with their brother priests….with some new ideas and a better understanding of what the Pope is asking of us and how we can do what he’s asking.”

Fr. Tony’s interview begins at 17:06 with introduction and his vocation; 22:55 NFPC; 27:29 Convocation specifics.

Father Tony interviewed on Relevant Radio on March 8th about the upcoming 2016 48th Annual Convocation for Priests

morninng-air-thumb-270NFPC President Father Tony Cutcher was interviewed on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air® with John Harper on March 8th, 2016. He speaks about our 48th Annual Priests’ Convocation, April 18-21 in Indianapolis: “..we gather priests from all over the country, and they don’t have to be part of a priest council to come….for a time to relax, hear some good speakers, trade ideas, war stories, just simply to be with brother priests, and that is just so vitally important right now as we become more and more stretched and isolated.” He also mentions what the laity can do to help. Listen below.