By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published June 5, 2008
By now we have all grown accustomed to the delightful presence of cultural traditions, costumes and ethnic music at events that take place in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The great variety of peoples who now call this local church their home gives rise to beautiful religious and cultural traditions that may come from Central or South America, Asia, Europe or Africa. They always add a spice and a flavor to our celebrations that reminds us all of the true universality of the Catholic Church. Whether it be mariachi bands or bagpipe players, the colorful costumes and choreography of Irish step dancers, or splendid Asian attire, these impressive traditions only add to the flavor of the church in North Georgia.
On Saturday last as we exited the Cathedral with our eight brand-new priests in tow, a wonderful ensemble of African singers and dancers greeted the new priests. The song that they sang in a metrical African cadence had as a refrain: “Mary did it for us!”
I could not help but reflect on the truth of the words of the song—the Mother of God has played a key role in providing these new priests for the church. She has answered the prayers of countless thousands of Catholics here who have prayed and continue to pray for an increase in vocations. She answered the prayers of these young men who invoked her support countless times during their seminary studies. She answered the prayers of the Archbishop who continues to beg her to bless this local church with enough priests to provide for our future needs.
“Mary did it for us!” rang the chant that reminds this church of our great good fortune in having these new men as our priests.
More and more the vocation programs that seem to bring success are those that include frequent and fervent prayer for more priests, deacons and religious. Our own archdiocese has long had a tradition of praying that God bless us with good, generous, dedicated and zealous priests. Catholics in North Georgia pray before the Blessed Sacrament; they offer the rosary; they include this intention in the prayers of the faithful at our Sunday Masses. Everywhere we must ask God to send workers into the vineyard of the church.
Saturday, we reaped some of the profit of so many of those prayers. But we must not stop there. Our prayers must continue for these eight young men that they become the type of priests that will enrich the faith of this local church. We must pray that they remain faithful and successful in their priesthood. And of course we must pray for even more priests in the years ahead.
Our prayers should be very specific and very insistent on the caliber of priests that we need. Let our prayer be very precise in asking God for priests who are joyful of heart and missionary-minded, who are inspiring preachers, who remain faithful to the teachings of the church, who are on fire with a passion for justice and peace, who are hard workers, who are careful celebrants of the church’s liturgy, and are men of deep prayer.
We can ask God for these types of priests because we know that God listens to our prayers. And as the singers reminded us last Saturday with joyful exuberance—Mary can and will do it for us!