October 26, 2013 – Thanking Our Priests

Just wanted to start out with some positive health news – my heart is fine and pumping like it should.  No, I didn’t have an EKG or a stress test.  I know my heart is fine because I have made it through all of these Cardinal games without incident, so I know my heart must still be able to take an enormous amount of stress.  What a ride it has been so far.  To have played so poorly in Game 1 of the World Series and then to bounce back in Game 2.  Whew!  I can’t wait until tonight for Game 3 and the rest of the weekend.  GO CARDS!

OK, that business aside, time to move on to other matters.  Besides all of the other happenings the month of October brings, it is also typically set aside for Christian churches to, in some way, show appreciation for their pastor.  The USA Council of Serra International sponsors this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in October, as Priesthood Sunday in our country.  If you receive the Messenger newspaper or read it online, you saw the extra section dedicated in appreciation of our Diocesan clergy.

Anytime I talk about the history of our parish, the first thing I try to mention is not the buildings, or organizations, but how fortunate we have been to have had the leadership of dedicated, caring pastors.  I have mentioned it before, but I say it again because I think it is an incredible number.  Since 1892, a 121 year period, we have had just six pastors!  We have truly been spoiled.  So to maintain the previous average, Fr. Gene will have to stay another 13 years.  No problem, right Father?!  Anyway, to say the least, we have seen some wonderful examples of ministry and witness over these many years.  And of course, the role of priest at St. Mary’s has changed over these many years.  From traveling on horseback to many locations, to overseeing a thriving parish with the help of an assistant pastor, to the present day with the number of clergy declining, and once again assessing the need to minister in multiple locations.

It is with this last point that I express my appreciation for Fr. Gene.  At a point in his life when most folks are thinking about retirement, Fr. Gene has willingly taken on more responsibility.  In addition to being our pastor and serving as director of the Deacon Formation program in our Diocese, he has now taken on the responsibility of being Vicar Forane for the West Vicariate, and serving as a member of the Diocesan Finance Council.  These are, of course, just a listing of official duties.  As we know, there are many unofficial duties that a priest performs as well, whether it be as a spiritual mentor, guide, psychologist, mediator, friend, the priest is an intimate part of all of our lives.  The priest is truly selfless.  The question is asked so often why priests cannot be married.  I think a simple answer to this is that he is already married in a way to everyone he ministers to.  When there is an illness, a death, a hardship, etc., the priest is there.  How would we feel if a priest would not be available during these times because he had an obligation to his wife and children.  Would we be understanding of this?  I’m not so sure.

Despite all of the duties occupying Fr. Gene’s time, I admire him because he is always finding ways to show folks how appreciative he is of them.  I found this out again this past week when after our Parish Council meeting there was a Cardinal goodie bag waiting for me in celebration of my birthday.  From the oldest to the youngest, from the most active parishioner to the lukewarm Catholic, Fr. Gene has a way of making everyone feel appreciated and special.  We cannot repay you for all you do for us, Fr. Gene.  All we can offer you is our sincere, heartfelt thanks for everything you have done and for the sacrifices you continue to make.  May God grant you continued good health and happiness.

If you did read the Messenger this past week, you saw many other stories about what our priests mean to their parishioners.  All of our Diocesan priests are dealing with more and more duties being thrown on their laps as the number of priests continues to dwindle.  We certainly need to pray for all of our priests.  Here is a prayer that I found which we can pray for all of our priests:

Thank you Jesus for sending us our wonderful Priests. You called each one of them as you did with the Apostles ” Come follow Me.” May the power of your mercy, O lord, shatter all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests, for You can do all things.. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devils, traps and snares which are continually being set for the soul of Priests.
Oh Jesus we pray for all Priests, those on the missions, those of your persecuted Church, those who feel isolated and lonely, those who are now suffering at this time.
Oh Mother Queen of Heaven who walked with the Apostles chosen by your Son, who the Holy Spirit inspired to pray for the Apostles and the first Christians pray with great love in this time for our Priests, and His Church. AMEN. 

We of course must continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and to encourage those whom we feel may make a good priest.  We also pray for Fr. Nick Junker, our new Diocesan Vocation Director, as he begins to work to encourage vocations in our area.

All right, Cardinal fans, are you ready?  Drinks and snacks in place?  Let’s wrap this thing up in St. Louis!  Have a great week.  Peace.

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