Friday 9 March 2018 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Just another day at the rectory

The title of this column, dear readers, is not a reference to the 1960s song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and recorded by The Rolling Stones. No. No. Today I am considering the topic of “satisfaction” as in “job satisfaction.”

When interviewing young couples preparing for Marriage, I ask a standard question, “What is your occupation?” It used to be people answered without a second thought. Now the response comes after a significant pause, “Ummm. Let me see. How can I best put it into words?” They seem to be unsure of what they actually do at work.

Those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 can be expected to have at least four job changes before they reach the age of 30. There are a lot of theories as to the cause of all this job surfing. It’s a given that young people tend to be restless. Maybe today’s young adults want to climb the corporate ladder more quickly than their parents. Maybe they want to make more money. Maybe they just don’t like whatever they happen to be doing at the moment. Maybe employers go through workers more rapidly than in times past. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. The jury is out.

I’ve been wondering what might be the occupations in which people tend to be happier and more satisfied. I found a major scientific study on this subject. The study, by the University of Chicago, took almost 20 years to conduct and involved 27,587 test subjects.

It’s complicated. There are people who may be happy to work at entry level jobs but dissatisfied with the pay, benefits, or advancement opportunities. Conversely, a person can be satisfied with the pay but not happy in the job. On the whole, people’s feelings about their work have a significant impact on their general happiness and on their physical and mental health.

Let’s start with the jobs in which people said they get no satisfaction. The least-satisfying jobs were mostly low-skill or customer service: manual laborers, table servers, bartenders, packagers, clothing department clerks, shelf stockers, freight handlers, cashiers, food preparers (excluding cooks and chefs), complaint desk clerks, and home furnishing salespersons. 

Those who said they were very unhappy with their jobs include garage and gas station attendants, those in construction trades, welfare service aides, amusement and recreation attendants, hotel maids, laundry workers, electronic repairers, machine operators, and kitchen crews. The unhappiest of all were roofers.

The professions on the high end of the satisfaction scale tend to involve care-giving, teaching, and protecting others from harm, as well as especially creative pursuits. Among the most satisfied of all are firefighters and physical therapists. Other top satisfying occupations are school administrators, artists, teachers, authors, office supervisors, security and financial services, and psychologists.

Those who say they are happiest in their jobs include architects, actors and directors, travel agents, special education teachers, science technicians, mechanics, and industrial engineers.

Occupations such as editors and reporters, police, registered nurses, and accountants fall in the middle on the satisfied/dissatisfied and the happy/unhappy scales. 

And now, dear readers, it’s time for what is called “The Great Reveal.” The occupation coming in number one in the satisfaction category and the happiness category is (envelope please): clergy

Surprised? I’m not.

I’ve been a priest for some 45 years. It can be frustrating and disappointing at times, of course, but that’s not the default mode. The default is a sense of personal satisfaction and inner happiness as you strive, by God’s grace, to do your best in serving the souls assigned to your pastoral care. It comes as no surprise to me that, of all the professions, trades, and occupations in the United States, ordained ministry is at the very top of the list. Of course it is. 

Some faithful Catholics, in a moment of sincere empathy, might say something like: “Poor Father has to live in these times when the Catholic priesthood is being constantly demeaned by so many critics. Poor Father has to deal with all these changes in a reorganizing Church. Poor Father has to struggle so hard to pay the mounting parish bills. Poor Father has so many added responsibilities these days. Poor Father has no priests assigned to assist him. Poor Father has to live all by himself in that huge, empty rectory.”

Poor Father?

While any priest would appreciate words of encouragement and support, “Father” is not poor (except in his personal bank account). The fact is, Father is rich. What he does is who he is. He is called to do what he has chosen to do. It’s a vocation, not a job. Acquiring money, fame, and power has little to do with living a fulfilling and happy life. 

In the words of Bob Dylan, the Nobel Prize poet, “A man (sic) is a success if he gets up in the morning, goes to bed at night, and in between does what he wants to do.” 

Amen to that.

Anchor columnist Father Tim Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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