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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Feb 28, 2007

Pallottine priest Fr. Greg Serwa is Stripes the Clown. And Stripes the Clown provides the cover-story for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald's special Vocations Supplement.

"It's interesting being a clown because people don't know who you are necessarily," said Fr. Serwa, who continues to clown at parish festivals. "The same can be said in some ways for priests. You wear a uniform and people identify with that uniform. It can keep people away or invite people in. As a priest, you're always dealing with things that are important to people's lives. You have to be real gentle with people. The same can be said for clowning; little kids can be quite frightened of clowns."

The little kids, in this case, have reason on their side.

Putting aside the fact that many people are creeped out by clowns, it's hard to see the point of foregrounding this kind of story as part of vocation promotion. Vocational instability is a huge problem today -- not exclusively in the priesthood, true, but notoriously so therein. Why lead with an image that is not only equivocal as to adulthood, but suggests vocational straddling? Why not feature a man who finds the spiritual satisfactions of his priestly life -- not in social work or dance or twisting balloons into animal shapes -- but in sacramental ministry? After all, do we want to entice into the priesthood the kind of 22-year-old male that would be attracted by Stripes?

[tip to Terrence Berres]

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Show 16 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 03, 2007 10:29 AM ET USA

    The clown "movement" started with Stop the World - I Want to get Off. Vocations for more Fr. Littlechaps and Sister Evies??

  • Posted by: - Mar. 01, 2007 1:27 PM ET USA

    "...it's hard to see the point of foregrounding this kind of story as part of vocation promotion..." Obvious: priest = clown Sad, sad, sad.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 01, 2007 9:31 AM ET USA

    When one sees the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns, one is awed by their devotion, self control, sacrifice and dedication. When one sees a priest who portays all the dignity of a buffoon, wha tis one to think. I order burgers from a clown, not my salvation.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 01, 2007 8:18 AM ET USA

    Hold the criticism??? A friend of mine asked me to Google-up a Mr. Jeffrey Montoya, a Pallottine-Milwaukee vocations director. Apparently is a Dignity USA board member. Anyone out there suprised???

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 6:36 PM ET USA

    I was all set to jump in with my criticism of this practice and vocation story. Then I decided to be fair and read the article first. How can you criticize a priest of 36 years who says how wonderful it is to walk the journey with others at the most important time of THEIR lives as part of his ministry? What part of a vocation message such as, "The priesthood is not a one-shot deal, it’s an ongoing decision.” is so objectionable to you? Let's pray for our priests and religious.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 3:17 PM ET USA

    Haven't read the article & maybe he's like the Barney priest in California, but I'll play devil's advocate. St. John Bosco used magic and circus tricks to attract people and teach the Gospel. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with a priest clowning. Now if he's a narcissist using it to get attention that's one thing. But if it's a source of attracting people to Christ, clowning is just a tool. Keep it outside the Church building, don't mix it up with the sacraments and what's the big deal?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 1:02 PM ET USA

    There are just way too many clowns in Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Perhaps they could find a rewarding career with the circus, the Episcopal Church or even saturday morning television for children on some obscure channel.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 12:06 PM ET USA

    Thank you, Terrence and Diogenes. I pray that the Holy Father & the Office for Bishops sees this issue of Milwaukee's diocesan paper. I mean, how does Abp. Dolan explain this one to Rome? Sure, the abp. cannot micro-manage his own paper, but at least delegate duties to orthodox/responsible Roman Catholics, not a bunch of clowns. Will Abp. Dolan tell the Holy Father that Abp. Weakland is the editorial advisor to the paper, which was just trying to reach out to a same-sex-ambivalent community?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 11:12 AM ET USA

    Pathetic; it is no cure for vocations. A clown is a clown and a priest should be a priest. I never recall a priest saying he got his vocation watching the circus!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 9:55 AM ET USA

    The picture says it all. It isn't about vocations, its about the good father's hobby, which is being a priest. His real love is clowning around. Sorry, I don't want seminarians emulating a clown, I want them emulating St. John Vianney.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 9:52 AM ET USA

    How do you take a clown seriously? The funny part about all this is that, I bet, the little children like him better as a priest then a clown. I find this whole thing strange, if not , weird.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 9:24 AM ET USA

    In light of the clergy sex abuse scandals, there is something creepy about this line: "It's interesting being a clown because people don't know who you are necessarily." This is not the time for clergy to feign anonymity.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 8:39 AM ET USA

    I thought we had finished with our identitiy crisis.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 8:04 AM ET USA

    A clown priest is such a contradiction. He clearly identifies more with the clown costume than with clerics or perhaps clerics are the costume for him. This is the equivalent of the Marine Corps trying to recruit young "men" by portraying a Marine in uniform as a character of "La Cage aux Folles" prancing around on stage with the line "Our physical fitness program will challenge you mentally and physically." What "man" would be attracted to that? semper fi Abe

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 7:57 AM ET USA

    BINGO uggghh

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 7:03 AM ET USA

    "In subsequent years, parishioners assisted in constructing his clown costume, applying makeup and teaching him how to make balloon animals and juggle — although he never quite mastered the juggling." And thus have creating the image of a priest that they desire, not what God desires. When will we as a people accept God's image and likeness not our own?

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