So You Think You Want to be a Priest’s Wife…

Edit Feb. 10: This has been the most popular post ever on PresbyteraAnonyma. Clearly the items covered here resonate with the experience of many. The reason I started the blog to begin with was precisely because there is so little by way of support and networking for Orthodox clergy wives. It is so good to see that there are now some attempts being made to provide seminary programs, for instance.

Please feel free to add to the discussion here or elsewhere. For instance, the post has been picked up by Byztex.blogspot.com, and the blog author (who is currently a seminarian) and commenters there have added much more excellent food for thought. –PresAnon

So you think you want to be a priest’s wife…..

Before you head off on your husband-search to seminary or to a choir concert featuring eager young men in black singing liturgical music, make your way through the following checklist:

v    Do you love being at church? A lot? Not just on Sundays?

v    Have you established a prayer rule and regular confession? Now is the time to do this, before husband and children come along to complicate your routine. Also, you will likely have to find a new confessor once you move to a new parish, and make it a priority to go regularly, possibly traveling some distance.

v    Can you wait patiently for services to start, or for your husband to finish chatting with parishioners after the service? Are you ready to train your children with the same patience? PK’s (priests’ kids) say that the thing they rememember more than anything else about growing up is always –waiting- at church!

v    Can you handle living in somebody else’s house indefinitely? While many churches now offer a housing allowance, a lot still own a parish house where the priest and his family will be expected to reside, often right next door to the church where parishioners can observe your gardening skills or lack thereof, or drop in when you least expect it.

v    Do you find yourself content to be second banana? Can you stand happily beside someone else who is in the spotlight, whether it is your husband or whether it is already-established lay leaders in the parish you move to?

v    Are you ready to deal with expectations about the way you and your children dress, the amount of money you spend on your pets, or the kind of recreational activities your family chooses?

v    Are you prepared to work part- or even full-time, at least temporarily, to make ends meet in a parish that can’t or won’t provide their priest a living wage? Do you have a marketable skill that will help you find work that you will enjoy?

v    Do you have interests to pursue outside the church? These can give you a much-needed break and change of perspective.

v    Have you thought about the ways in which you will contribute to the life of the parish—and the ways you won’t? Can you be firm but polite about your decisions? Do you know what your gifts are and aren’t? If you aren’t sure, are you willing to give something a try when asked, but turn it over to someone else if you find you are not the right woman for the job?

v    Will you remind your husband that you and the children are also parishioners, and ensure that he gets a weekly day off; that the phone will not be answered during family dinner; and that barring emergencies, milestones in your children’s lives will take precedence?

v    Can you gather your strength to move your household away from your familiar surroundings at short notice if the bishop decides to reassign your husband to a new parish?

v    Do you have a network of family and friends to whom you can turn, even if only long distance, to confide in? Can you keep a balance of friendliness to parishioners without favoritism or making any of them ‘special’ above others?

v    Are you any good at all at holding your tongue? You will be offered opportunities to do so almost daily.

If these all sound a little daunting, they are. Clergy wives face challenges that their parishioners scarcely ever think about.

The good news is, a lot can be learned as you go along—in fact can hardly be learned any other way. What is mainly needed is open eyes and a good attitude. Seminaries are now making a point of helping seminarians’ wives to look ahead and prepare for life in the parish. Seminary is also where you will meet other women who will be undergoing similar experiences, and with them you can help build supportive relationships for the future.

Still think you might want to be a priest’s wife? One thing left to do: start praying. And never stop.

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18 responses to “So You Think You Want to be a Priest’s Wife…

  1. broke a cardinal rule – couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

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  2. LOL I may start looking differently at young presvyteras now 😉 Seriously though, aren’t you supposed to fall in love with the *man* himself and then ask yourself if you can be a plumber’s wife, a doctor’s wife, a priest’s wife and so on? Or perhaps you need an extra question, “Will you still love him if he can no longer be a priest for some reason?”

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    • presbyteraanonyma

      Excellent point, Margaret. Clergy perhaps even more than most men tend to find their identity in their work, and I think this is also the case for many clergy wives. But regardless of any change in our circumstances, we are servants of Christ first, and our first responsibility is to love those of our own household.

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      • Yes, I hadn’t thought of it as a vocation in itself (despite having been engaged to an Anglican ordinand many years ago). It must make husband-choosing quite an Austen-esque experience though!

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  3. Deborah Belonick

    Having been a clergy wife for more than 34 years, I can vouch for the fact that you’ve presented a realistic picture; being a clergy wife demands courage, strength, charity, and faith, equal to one’s husband’s. There’s another perspective: being a clergy wife constantly places me in situations where I must practice my Christian faith, not just “talking-the-talk,” but “walking-the-walk.” Some woman may view clergy family life as a “box,” but it is a box that can lead to spiritual freedom, if one puts forth great effort and views “obstacles” as “opportunities” for spiritual growth. You are especially “right on” when you encourage a network of other clergy wives, or a confidante in your own family or circle of close friends, for spiritual encouragement and respite. May our Lord help us: we (I) need Him within us in order to continue to serve Him and others! Kindly, in our Lord, Mat Deborah Belonick

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    • presbyteraanonyma

      Thank you Mat. Deborah for adding your observations from experience! I too have been a clergy wife for over thirty years now and you are very right about ‘walking the walk’.

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  4. Pingback: So You Think You Want To Be A Priest’s Wife… — Good Guys Wear Black | Discerning Your Vocation In The Orthodox Church

  5. AMEN!!!!!
    And now we need to write the one titled, “So you want to befriend a priest’s spouse…” where we talk about how often we have to cancel out on plans we so desperately needed to keep!
    ~Susan

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  6. Pingback: A response | orthodoxwoman

  7. Thank you for this. Completely by coincidence (or not when you have faith) several of my closet friends and I are all on our way to becoming clergy-wives. This is wonderful.

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  8. another prespytera

    Thank you, it was fantastic to found your blog. “colleague” linked it to her Facebook wall. So, also clergy wife´s in Finland have found your blog. It is interesting to see how similar ideas we have in different societies. I´m professional myself, married with orthodox priest for 12 years now 🙂 and have family with three children.I will follow your blog in future.

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    • presbyteraanonyma

      thank you another prespytera. Wonderful to hear from Finland!

      Meanwhile, a blessed Paschal celebration to all presbyteras throughout the world!

      Like

  9. Single Orthodox Christian Woman

    Very interesting article. Even though my page is primarily for unmarried women, I think I will re-blog at my page. This advice may be useful for those gals who are maybe seeing the grass as greener on the other side, or for those who maybe obsessed with the idea they must marry, and marry a priest/deacon/pastor at that. It’s clear to me being a priest’s wife is not for everyone and one had better have the right stuff before they make that literally once in a lifetime decision. As for me, I’m not eligible since I’m divorced lol

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  10. Single Orthodox Christian Woman

    Reblogged this on Awed By The Beauty… and commented:
    So, ladies, do you think you want to marry a priest? You might want to heed these wise words from a Presbytera who knows of what she speaks….

    Like

  11. Pingback: A couple of links | The Orthodox Clergy Wife by Presbytera Anonyma

  12. Pingback: 4th Time’s the Charm: Reader Q’s | Orthogals

  13. great website, and very informative. I enjoyed reading all of your posts. thank you

    Like

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