Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 13, 2009
Archbishop launches the year for Priests
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Archbishop Richard Smith celebrates the June 26 Mass launching the Year for Priests.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Priests outnumbering the parishioners is a rarity at any Mass. Yet that may well have been the scenario June 26 at St. Joseph's Basilica.
The regular weekday Mass marked the opening of a special jubilee year for priests, as designated by Pope Benedict.
Beginning June 19, the year presents an opportunity to express thanks for the gift of the ministerial priesthood and to pray for the ongoing sanctification of those who exercise this sacred office.
"It's a day to reflect on our own personal priesthood and hopefully many of the young people will be able to join our group. It's a beautiful vocation and a beautiful life," said Father Joe Leszczynski, from St. Clare's Parish, who will retire from active ministry Aug. 12 after 52 years as a priest.
Most priests from throughout the Edmonton Archdiocese attended the special Mass, as did Whitehorse Archbishop Gary Gordon and former Edmonton Archbishop Joseph MacNeil who, only a day prior, celebrated his 40th anniversary of being ordained a bishop.
"We are here to thank God for MacNeil being MacNeil, and all of his years of dedication for the people of Edmonton," Father Jozef Wroblewski told the WCR.
Archbishop Richard Smith called the evening Mass a time to celebrate the vocation of priesthood, and what better way than through the Eucharist, partaking in the body and blood of the high priest?
"His love for us is communicated through the sacraments," said Smith.
The priest draws ever nearer to his Lord and grows in holiness, the archbishop said.
A parish priest celebrates Mass daily, hears confessions every week, provides marriage and prenuptial counselling, gives spiritual direction, baptizes, witnesses weddings, performs funerals, and anoints, and visits shut-ins and the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.
"The holiness and the life of the priest is not optional," said Smith. Yet at times he faces indifference, loneliness and even outright hostility.
"Priests must face these difficult and inevitable circumstances, the misunderstandings of men who don't understand their ministry," he said.
Father Gary Lee, from St. Theresa's Parish, referred to the priesthood as a gift to the Church from Jesus Christ. This year marks a chance for local priests to show gratitude for this gift and continue sharing their ministry in the archdiocese.
"This year the holy father, Pope Benedict, has given all of the priests the privilege to examine the importance once again of our ministry and the importance of our relationship with Jesus Christ," said Lee.
"Our priesthood is deeply rooted in Jesus Christ, so he (the pope) wants us to discover once again the beauty of our vocation, our encounter with Jesus Christ."
Once a year, a priest is expected to make a five-day retreat. Priests from the archdiocese will celebrate this jubilee year through prayer and travel.
"Travel is part of holiness. The moment we travel, it gives us an opportunity to rediscover again the beauty of God's creation," said Lee.
Smith called priests the heralds of Jesus' bountiful gifts and praised them for their efforts in the Edmonton Archdiocese specifically.
"The closest and most important collaboration for a bishop is his priests. I commend you for your collaboration and counsel," he told his priests during the Mass.