Today the Church throughout the United States celebrates “Priesthood Sunday” as a special day to set aside to honor priesthood. It is a day to reflect upon and affirm the role of the priesthood in the life of the Church as a central one. This observance, sponsored by the organization Sera International, specifically honors priests, without whom the Mass could not be offered and Sacraments could not be celebrated.
As the 38th anniversary of my ordination approaches (October 10th), I would like to share with you some reflections on my 38 years of being a priest. From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a priest. As a child, I would play priest. My altar was a long dresser in my bedroom; tabernacle a spray-painted gold old breadbox; chalice a gold spraypainted jar that my mom’s face cream came in; hosts were either squished mini marshmallows or Nicole candy wafers. Growing up and attending a Catholic grammar school in the 1950/60’s I was enamored with the priests and nuns and the mystery of it all. I enjoyed altar serving and helping around church.
The real call to priesthood came when I was 23. My first response was no way! I had a job and was happy with my life, but God kept nagging. I finally met with a priest about a possible vocation. Remembering past sins and pranks of college days, I told him I did not feel worthy to be a priest. He looked me in straight in the eye and said, “None of us are worthy!” With that, I felt my resistance depart. Accepted for the Diocese of Joliet, I did my seminary studies at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and was ordained a priest on October 10, 1981.
In 38 years, I have served eight different parishes in our Diocese. While each of them have their unique identity and special memories for me, each also have had the same incredible love and support that have nourished me in my priesthood. Despite my faults, failings, weaknesses, personality and idiosyncrasies, I have felt so loved and accepted by many. That has been a special joy for me. Bringing even more joy has been the privilege to celebrate the Mass and nourish you with the word of God in my homilies, and the Body and Blood of Jesus who gave his life for us. Being trusted with the darkest secrets and brokenness of those who have come to me for confession has been a most humbling experience. My prayer is that I have always responded with the compassion and mercy of God. Sharing in the happy moments of a baptism, wedding, confirmation, graduation, job promotion, and just families parties has been a blessing. So too, walking the times of sadness and sorrow in parishioners lives has been an honor. So, thanks to everyone who have made these past 38 years ones of great happiness and fulfillment. I still do not know why God called me to be a priest, but I have tried to fulfill that call the best I can.
God Bless All of You!