Concluding the Year for Priests
It was not the biggest gathering the Cathedral of St. Augustine had ever witnessed but it was among the most touching events in the Cathedral's long history and one of the nicest celebrations of the Year for Priests. On May 18, about forty priests and members of their families participated in a Mass. It was a grateful and prayerful recognition of the parents and family members of our priests. More than a few parents of priests attended. After Mass, it was my privilege to present a rose to the mothers of the priests present in the Cathedral. They beamed almost as brightly as on ordination day.
The Most Reverend William E. Lori, S.T.D., Bishop Of Bridgeport
Some priests attended even though their parents live far away or were otherwise unable to make the journey. It was their way of saying thanks to their parents and families for helping them hear God's call. United in Eucharistic sacrifice, they were spiritually close to their parents even though separated by distance.
We also offered that Mass for the deceased parents and family members of our priests. What a beautiful and consoling mystery! The Mass which is at the heart of the priest's existence unites heaven to earth and earth to heaven. In offering this Mass, we were drawn close to parents and relatives who had gone home to the Lord perhaps many years ago. While we could not give them a rose, we gave them our love!
This beautiful Mass for priests and their families was preceded by a wonderful concert that was arranged by Father Cyprian LaPastina, pastor of St. Gabriel's. It was held on April 30 in his beautifully renovated church. A commentator introduced various selections using the words of St. John Vianney. There was a marvelous "conspiracy" of words and music that reminded us all of the dignity, mission, and beauty of the priestly vocation.
This wonderful event was concluded by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and a reception for the priests and seminarians who attended.
Those who attended the one-man show, "Vianney" by Leonardo DePhilipis, were treated to a vivid portrayal of the life of the patron saint of parish priests. It attracted capacity crowds at the three locations where it was performed: St. Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield, St. Rose in Newtown, and Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. The priests who attended told me that, when the performance was over, many people warmly greeted them and thanked them for accepting their vocation. Many who attended told me that the portrayal of John Vianney was utterly life-like and convincing and that it gave them a whole new appreciated for the priesthood. To my chagrin, I was unable to attend any of the performances but I am heartened by the fact that I will be able to attend this play during the semi-annual bishops' meeting later this month.
These events, and events organized by parishes around the diocese, culminated in the priestly ordinations which took place at St. Augustine Cathedral. This year, I had the joy of ordaining four men to the priesthood: Jaime Marín-Cardona, Jeffrey Couture, Karol Ksiazek, and Michael Novajosky. As of this writing, I am preparing to ordain them not only by writing a homily but indeed by praying intensely for them, for their families, and for their future ministry. It is a source of deepest wonder and awe to ordain a man to the priesthood, to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit in inscribing in the depth of a man's soul the image of Christ, Head and Shepherd of His Church, so that he can re-produce the saving words and deeds of ChriSt. Please join me in thanking God for these new priests and in praying for them. I also ask you to continue praying for vocations. Again, as of this writing, our vocations program is robust and continuing to grow. It is love for the priesthood and prayer that makes this happen!
Recently, there was a beautiful Corpus Christi procession organized by Msgr.. Walter Orlowski and Father Tomi Thomas. All the parishes and many parishioners from Norwalk gave thanks to the Eucharistic Lord for the gift of the priesthood as a way of concluding this Year for Priests. Finally, it will be my joy to gather with about 70 State Knights of Columbus Chaplains for a pilgrimage to Rome where Pope Benedict will conclude this Year for Priests.
This special year will indeed come to an end. But in another way, it is always the Year for Priests because the priesthood is utterly necessary in our lives as Catholic Christians. Perhaps the final word should go to St. John Vianney himself:
"If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the prieSt. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The prieSt. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The prieSt. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest – always the prieSt. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again, the prieSt. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the prieSt."