It is easy for any leader to "fall into a rut" if he stays too long in one leadership position. Change in leadership is a means of injecting a new challenge into a priest's life and new creativity into a parish.
Among all of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, there are great differences in responsibilities and expectations of the priest. A system of rotation of the priests allows all priests to share in the greater or lesser workloads of the various parishes.
Because a certain amount of appraisal is involved in the re-appointment process, a system of rotation ensures that the priests will evaluate their performance.
Some priests, even when they know they ought to move on, find it difficult to ask for a transfer. A routine Term of Office policy makes it easier for such priests.
With a declining number of priests, it is possible for priests and people alike to "dig in" and keep their status quo at the expense of other parishes with equal or greater pastoral needs. A routine system of rotation ensures that there will be priests available for parish merger situations and shared pastor situations.
The policy makes it easier for the Archbishop to deal with problematic transfers and at the same time it is a face-saving method for both the bishop and the pastor.
In the old code of Canon Law, a pastor was appointed for life to a parish. When the Archdiocese of Milwaukee adopted the Term of Office policy in 1980, any pastor who had already been appointed could stay in his parish for life. If a pastor chose to move to another assignment, then he became subject to the new Term of Office policy. There are still 9 priests who are "grandfathered" under this old law. Like any priest, they may retire at age 68. But at 75, they must submit their letter of retirement to the Archbishop. Some of these men are scheduled to retire soon; others have up to 5 years before the mandatory age of 75 for retirement.
Secondly, there are four reasons why a pastor might receive an extension beyond his two terms of office (six years each). They are outlined in the Clergy Manual. They are: 1) the needs of the parish in light of other staff changes; 2) the priest is within one or two years of retirement; 3) special or major events or projects in the parish; and 4) needs of the collaborative projects and models in the Archdiocese.