By Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory | Published October 24, 2013
This Sunday is Priesthood Sunday here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta—an annual opportunity for us to express our thanks for the service of our priests. In truth, every Sunday is Priesthood Sunday because through the sacramental ministry of our priests, we all worship the Triune God each Lord’s Day (and during the weekdays for many of us). These fine men, young and old, stand at the altars of this local Church and offer the Eucharist with and for us.
Once a year, we highlight their service and hopefully find an opportunity or two to say thank you for their presence in our lives.
We all have memories of wonderful priests—I have mine and you have yours. We can recall a priest who may have been the funniest man that we ever knew. He could whistle, tell jokes and make you laugh with just a facial expression. We all knew a priest who could manage always to say the perfect thing at just the right moment. Whether it was at a wake or a wedding reception—he constantly knew how to connect the moment with an expression of faith.
Our priests need to know that they are appreciated—certainly by me as their Archbishop, but even more importantly by you, the people that they serve. These have not been easy years in which to be a Catholic priest—and that is an understatement to be sure. These pressures have placed a lot of stress on our priests. I need not specify all of the difficulties that priests have endured. They are well known to everyone. But also well known to each one of us are the even more numerous reasons that a particular Catholic priest has enriched your life—and mine as well.
Lest these events go unnoticed and overshadowed by the disillusionments and anger that are also real for too many people, we designate a Sunday in October to say thanks to the priests of our Archdiocese as well as to those priests who have meant so much to you no matter where they might happen to live.
Drop them a note, send them an email or a text message and just say “thanks, Father, for being an important part of my life and the life of my family.”
Many of the priests who inspired, shaped and formed me as a young man are now in the fullness of God’s Kingdom where I hope and pray they are still watching over me. There are also other priests that I have come to know over the years as teachers, colleagues, mentors, friends, and increasingly as my own sons through ordination. I will think of all of them on Priesthood Sunday.
My two closest friends are priests that I met in Rome as a doctoral student. They continue to enrich my life with their love, their joy, their support and their willingness to confront me by pointing out my limitations and mistakes—without taking too much obvious delight in that responsibility. I speak to them almost weekly, and our telephone conversations always end with thunderous laughter!
This Sunday, please pray for our priests as well as those who are studying to become our priests in the future. We all depend upon your prayers and spiritual support. Our Archdiocese needs good, holy, wholesome and joyful priests to continue the ministry that the Lord entrusted to His Church.
Some priests are great homilists; others are terrific with the sick and the elderly; still others serve our young people with great dedication. No two of them are exactly alike in appearance or in their talents. However, taken together they care for the people of God here in North Georgia with very great hearts. This next week, perhaps you can let one or more of them know how grateful you are for their service and their pastoral care.