Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Never too late to thank your priest for his generous service

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published November 3, 2016  | En Español

Each year there are only 365 vacancies available as days of special commemoration, with an extra one thrown in for good measure every fourth year. The assignment of some of these days is well established, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Others are steadily growing in popularity, such as Grandparents Day, Administrative Professionals Day, and even Boss’s Day. Some lesser known ones are National Ice Cream Day, Bike to Work Day, and literally dozens of others that most of us may never have heard of and probably do not observe.

This past Sunday was Priesthood Sunday, and I hope many of you not only remembered that day but also found an occasion to thank a priest that you know and admire. We have scores of wonderful priests in service to this local Church. And if you missed thanking one or more of them this past Sunday, a note or a text or phone call this week will make up for any forgetfulness.

Priesthood Sunday, like countless other annual observances, is a rather recent development and is just becoming a part of our annual remembrance. The day was developed in response to some of the public trials that priests have had to face in our contemporary environment. We all probably have a favorite priest who has touched our lives in wondrous ways—a childhood pastor whose kindness and dedication still brings a smile to our hearts, an enthusiastic young priest who inspired us in our adolescence, or a retired priest even now whose ongoing devotion to the ministry of the Church continues to arouse faith and confidence within us.

We priests are not perfect. Perhaps that need not be reiterated. Nonetheless, we try to serve the Lord and His people with our God-given talents and strengths. We all entered the priesthood with the loftiest of intentions and goals. And those ambitions still motivate us. We priests have met many wonderful people who have helped us immeasurably to refine and occasionally to temper our best endeavors. We have discovered our strengths and our weaknesses—and so have God’s people. On our best days, we would gladly choose the priesthood all over again in a heartbeat!

We priests all appreciate a compliment or an “attaboy recognition” every now and then—after all we are human beings like everyone else. That’s why Priesthood Sunday was instituted and what it is intended to accomplish. None of us became priests for public adulation, and many of us are simply embarrassed to receive any public recognition. Yet the word “thanks” is a balm for every human soul.

As the Archbishop of this local Church and not just another one of her priests, I must also remember to thank my brother priests for all that they do in service to God’s people. This expression of appreciation, in fact, is one of my most important responsibilities since the gratitude and affection of the bishop is a tremendous source of encouragement for any priest. I recall those times when Cardinal John Cody expressed his affection for and support of me. I could have lived a month on such exchanges alone on those occasions.

I must remember to thank our priests more frequently—as I now do publicly with this column that recognizes their goodness and generous service to all of God’s people.

If there is a priest somewhere who has enriched your life, you might let him know that. It will make his day—if not his week!