gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Priests, According to Priests

Photo: Steven Siewert/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Yes, there are many people reading this who may never need (or want) to buy a gift for a priest. But the few (the two?) who have tried to shop for priest friends or relatives know that they can be a particularly challenging type to buy for, especially if the person doing the buying is not religious. If this sounds like a familiar dilemma, you might be relieved to know that, when it comes to the types of gifts at the top of priests’ lists, religious things are not necessarily among them. “We really don’t need religious items,” says Monsignor John Hart of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Morristown, New Jersey. “The best gift for priests — or anyone religious — is something practical.”

Indeed, in speaking to Hart and four other priests about the best gifts they’ve received (or ones they’d like to receive), most shared this opinion in their suggestions, which ranged from things to make life at their often-old rectories a little more high-tech to things to make life at their often-cold rectories a little more cozy. Read on for all of their recommendations, and to those wondering how we found our priests: For most of my life, my mom has worked within the Catholic Church/school system, and over the past 15 years or so, she has held the job of parish secretary at no less than three parishes in as many states. So when we got some queries about where to begin shopping for priests, she helped us tap her network for their suggestions.

In keeping with the theme of practicality, Father Lukasz Wnuk, who works with Hart at Assumption Church, says that “often priests have older TVs, and sometimes no cable in their rooms.” An easy way to change that, he says, is with a gadget like Roku Premiere, which will turn any TV (with an HDMI port) into a smart TV. “It would enable them to subscribe to Netflix or other streaming services and bring the older TVs up to date,” Wnuk says.

Instead of watching TV, perhaps the priest in your life would rather spend time looking at photos of his loved ones. Wnuk said he received a digital frame from “one of the deacons I worked with, and I really like it.” His specific frame is currently sold out, but this Nix model is a very close sister to the top digital frame in our roundup of the best-reviewed ones on Amazon (because that top model is currently sold out, too).

According to Father Kenneth Lasch, who also works at Assumption Church, knowing the personality of your priest, not surprisingly, will help in shopping for him. If he likes to read, but you aren’t sure what his favorite genre is, Lasch recommends this “very unusual” book he recently received, which he calls “a colossal collection of fascinating facts and intriguing information.” He adds that the book’s 200-plus lists provide “quite entertaining pastime reading without having to go online.”

If the priest you’re shopping for is a creative type, Lasch says he might like to take up needlepoint — a popular pastime among both his lay and priest friends. “An elderly priest friend of mine, one of my Jesuit mentors, has taken up needlepoint,” Lasch told us. “He’s not alone — a former Mendham police chief I know also enjoys that as a hobby.” This cross-stitch kit is a good place to start: It comes in lots of prints beside this replica of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, and is one of the most-reviewed (and top-rated) kits of its kind on Amazon. For priests who might prefer knitting to needlepoint, our list of everything you need to start knitting has lots of gift ideas, too.

“Old rectories are often cold,” Wnuk told us. “If the priest is a close friend or relative, he might appreciate some nice slippers.” We have discovered a slew of nice slippers over the years — from the sheepskin Acorns that writer David Notis has worn for almost two decades, to warm wool Glerups, to the best-reviewed UGGs for men. But if you’re in the market for a moderately priced pair with a classic look that your priest can wear for years, this pair from Minnetonka — which appear on our list of the top-reviewed men’s slippers on Amazon — seems like a sure bet.

As part of their job, priests are often required to sign formal documents for any number of things. To add some sophistication to this administrative duty, Father Michal Falgowski of St. Virgil’s Church in Morris Plains, New Jersey, told us that he “started to use an ink pen to sign official paperwork,” and says the priest in your life might appreciate a special signing pen, too. “Special” is exactly what we called this German-made Kaweco fountain pen, which took fifth place in our ranking of the 100 best pens. We also said it “feels really solid and substantial: unscrewing the cap and sliding it on and off produces Hollywood-caliber sound effects.” (If it’s not quite right, a reminder that there are 99 others on that list to choose from.)

Speaking of Hollywood, two of our sources — Hart and Monsignor William Belford of Staten Island’s Church of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus — say treating a priest to the movies is always a welcome gift. “If they like movies,” Hart says, “an AMC movie gift card” would likely be appreciated. To make it a bit more personal, Belford adds that you could even offer to go with your priest to the movies (just don’t make him pay for you). “Take him to a movie, pick him up, be together for a while,” he says. “We work all the time; so a change, a new experience, having someone else to take initiative and get it done, is nice.”

And one more Strategist-approved gift idea for priests

If you do want to go the religious route, these tomato-red wool socks beloved by writer Alice Gregory are “made by the same family of tailors — the Gammarellis of Rome — that have been outfitting the pope since 1798,” she told us. Making the effort to procure them would surely not be lost on your priest. [Editor’s note: The socks’ actual price is 20 euros, so the price below is an approximate equivalent in U.S. dollars.]

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The Best Gifts for Priests, According to Priests