The Ugly Priest
by Richard Stickann

"What did he do to let himself get this way. This job, being a priest, pounds the hell out of a man."

Almost from the very beginning, Father Bernard’s life in the priesthood has been challenging. From a near career-altering temptation while in seminary with a childhood friend-turned-sweetheart to being assigned to Immaculate Conception, one of Chicago’s most underfunded, rundown congregations, nothing has come easily for him. As the assistant pastor at Immaculate Conception, he feels weathered by all of his duties and yearns for some normal human interaction aside from the needs of his parishioners and the cantankerous accusations of his superior, Father McElroy. Signing up on a website for Catholic pen pals, Bernard is shocked to learn that he is matched with a woman. Nervous and desperate to hide the truth from just about everyone, he begins to deteriorate in his appearance and actions, caught between a desire to simply just have a friend and stronger desires that threaten his priestly vow of celibacy.

Drawing on the author’s own Catholic upbringing and experience, this book focuses on the challenges faced by members of the priesthood and the ramifications of any misstep that they may take in their vows. The cast of characters is intimately small, emphasizing the isolation felt by Father Bernard that leads him down his troubled path. Whether secular or religious, all readers will be able to identify and empathize with Bernard’s plight, though only the latter will likely appreciate the weight and the gravity of his struggle. This story presents a human issue that everyone encounters at some point and clearly and skillfully shows how the vows and higher standards applied to members of the clergy result in them having to deal with such situations differently. If you can handle the emotional difficulties of its main character, this story is a powerful, attention-grabbing read.

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