Jana Šilerová: “My superior is the Lord”

The bishop of the Olomouc diocese of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church is a capable spiritual leader, teacher, psychologist, and manager. She relies on collegial, kindly management, and sees personal example as the best motivation.

Few people can imagine what a bishop does. What’s your job description?
I’m responsible for the spiritual and material management of our church’s Olomouc diocese, roughly covering the former North Moravian region. I’m in charge of 51 congregations and 48 priests, deacons, preachers, and pastoral assistants. My bishop’s duties include ordaining new priests, confirmations, pastoral care of parish priests and other believers, as well as theological conferences and preaching courses and supervision of the spiritual work of priests and the ordinary course of church administration. A council of priests and laypersons helps me. I’ve also kept my parish in Rychvald, Silesia.

What’s your work day like?
The priesthood is a “free-lance job” with no set work hours. My day? Take yesterday: After my night-time return from the Czech Television Council in Prague to Ostrava, in the morning I taught school children, in the afternoon I conducted a funeral, and towards evening I brought the Lord’s Supper sacrament to ill people. Late in the evening I prepared my lecture on the media as a new religion. I read Kempenský and prayed before retiring. Early in the morning I drove from Ostrava to the bishopric in Olomouc.

Please describe your church’s hierarchy. In lay language, who is your superior and who reports to you?
The church is God’s work and a human institution as well. In lay terms, the church’s Central Council reports to me. Its members are bishops and church laics. In full earnestness I respond that the Lord is the superior of myself and the whole church. This metaphysical point of view also determines the management method.

How would you contrast management within the church and corporate management in a firm like Škoda, for instance?
We must uphold not only state laws, but also church regulations. Every parish priest and the council of elders in his parish are responsible for these. I always remind them that if they don’t perform their priesthood duties honestly, they aren’t cheating me or the diocese council, but rather the Lord God. I know that a collegial, patient, and kindly approach to colleagues wouldn’t always necessarily pay off for corporate managers. But I see my parish priests as independent, spiritually honest priests. Also, I’ve known many of them for 30 years. Do you think they could fool me?

What are the requirements for an aspiring priest?
A future priest must study theology, have a strong calling – a call from above, from the God of Mercy – and be morally qualified. I propose candidates who are then approved by the diocesan council, and I ordain them. In his priestly, pastoral, and teaching work a proper priest, works on his spirituality, studies, and prays. Additionally, creative doubts push him ahead, and experiences in life deepen his humanity, and he matures towards less concern for himself, instead helping solve the problems of other souls with love. Loving his flock is paramount for a priest.

How do you assert your intentions with subordinates?
I definitely don’t issue orders. Instead I ask staff to do things. I think being authoritative doesn’t ensure authority. Also, our church is democratically structured by typology, from the bottom up, not hierarchically, like a pyramid. As Jesus said, the first should serve all…

How would you describe an ideal leader?
An image of the ideal leader will always be subjective, because everyone imagines his boss differently. In the church a leader should be wise, open, kind, self-critical, a true professional.

What do you most often use to motivate your colleagues?
I use my work ethic and boundless optimism with faith to do what I can do, and what I can’t do I leave up to the Lord.

In corporations pay provides great motivation, but in the church wages are low. Do you notice priests leaving for civilian jobs because of the pay?
People don’t decide on the priesthood because of money or career. If a priest discovered this later and went into civilian life, I wouldn’t hold it against him. But such a person would carry his loss of apostleship and departure from priestly service as a failure until he died.

Career highlights
1969 graduated from gymnasium in Znojmo
1974 graduated from the Hus Seminary
1974 ordained as a priest on 12 October
1974-81 served as a priest in the parish of Vratimov
1981-84 served as a priest in Kunčice pod Ondřejníkem and Frenštát
1984 to present serves as a priest in Rychvald and Bohumín
1999 ascended to bishopric in Olomouc for seven years

Another motivating factor is career advancement. But on your web site the bishop of Bratislava complains that many priests are subject to excessive rivalry in their desire to rise, to be well known and successful, which he sees as a bad thing. What’s your opinion?
Sometimes rivalry is attributed to the “successful and well known” out of envy. Generally, rivalry in the church is tragicomic. How far can you rise in the church? Christ himself rose to the cross…and we Christians don’t much strive for that. Rivalry is alien to anyone who really cares about God.

Do you sometimes go through situations of conflict with your colleagues, and how do you resolve them?
A quiet voice and patient trust that time and God will help both sides. I’d like to point out that patience is derived from the word to suffer.

Do you have a favorite tactic for leading people well?
I’m certainly not assertive – assertiveness is a superficial, purposeful, and hypocritical mechanism. I try to be patient as an ordinary Christian.

What’s the hardest part of your work?
Sometimes it’s the rivalry among male colleagues – but I take it with a bit of humor. Office work connected with my service as a bishop is the least pleasant aspect for me. It’s certainly necessary, but I prefer being among my parishioners.

What do you like best about your work?
The priesthood isn’t about entertainment, it’s about joy, of which I undeservedly have lots. What I like best is being among my flock in Rychvald.






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