He dwells among us: ‘You shall be my witness’

The prayer of every priest, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ always leads to greater joy

I love the Easter Season. With the exception maybe of the pollen and other allergens, there is always so much to look forward to in this season—warmer weather, the end of a school year, graduations, first communions and confirmations, and a new baseball season—go Cardinals!

But I am especially excited to have just ordained four new priests for our diocese— Father Julian Cardona, Father Tony Budnick, Father Adam Kane and Father Colin Blatchford. And I am looking forward to ordaining three transitional deacons, God willing, on June 14—Ray Powell, Scott Russell and Jesús Guerrero Rodriguez. What a blessing for all of us.

And with this season comes new priest assignments as well.

“No true vocation starts with ‘what I want,’” Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once stated. It begins with the question, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” It is a question every priest should pray in seeking God’s will for him each day since his priesthood is a gift from God. And as every priest at his ordination pledges obedience to his bishop, so it happens at various times that God’s will is expressed through his bishop. Sometimes, God’s will is expressed in the form of a new parish assignment.

The relationship between a priest and his bishop is a very special one that is sealed by holy obedience. This is because the priesthood of the ordained is a sharing in the “fullness” of the bishop’s priesthood as a successor to the Apostles. As the bishop’s “co-worker,” a priest exercises his priesthood as an extension of the bishop’s priesthood, and does so best by cooperating with him in his work in the Lord’s vineyard. And just as each priest is an extension of the bishop’s priesthood, so each parish is an extension of its cathedral church.

Looking back upon my priestly life, I can better appreciate how much holy obedience and joy go hand-in-hand. I still remember opening the envelope at the conclusion of my priestly ordination almost 29 years ago and the genuine joy I felt when I learned what my first parish assignment would be. I was nervous, but confident that God’s will would be done if I but trusted in the path He was leading me on. This is one of the reasons why I chose as my episcopal motto the words, Iesu Confido In Te—“Jesus I Trust in You.”

But if a priest says “yes” to God’s will for him in the form of a new parish assignment, the parish, too, as Christ’s body, must also offer its “yes” to God with its support. It is not easy to lose a priest that a parish has grown close to and has confidence in. But your help and prayers for your priests, especially those newly assigned, is a way to express your own “yes” to God in thanksgiving for the gift of the sacramental priesthood.

Venerable Archbishop Sheen felt that every priest in some way resembles Simon Peter, whose name reveals something of the priestly nature of the ordained. Like the name Simon, given by his earthly parents, there is the human side of every priest. But like the name Peter, given by Our Lord, priests are ambassadors of Christ, infused with heavenly powers through the sacrament of holy orders. As channels of Christ’s power, they are given the power to forgive sins, to celebrate Mass, and to anoint the sick.

This is the “treasure in clay” that Venerable Archbishop Sheen spoke of in his autobiography—the treasure of the priesthood housed in the fragile clay pot of each priest’s humanity. Pray for your priests every day.

I am reminded of a story of how a third-grade girl once asked a bishop if she could examine his episcopal ring. After a close look, she smiled and looking up at him exclaimed, “This ring means you are married to the Church.” Your priests are married to you. As they strive to love you as Christ loves the Church, please strive to be their special helpers and to love and pray for them.

I thank Our Lord for our priests, those newly ordained and those who have long served, who have accepted with joy God’s will for them in their new assignments—a joy in holy obedience. And I thank all our priests, especially those who have come from the ends of the world to serve God in this diocese. How proud I am of all of them. Thank you for answering God’s call to be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8) wherever He has needed you.

Let us continue to pray for our priests and for the blessing of vocations, for where would we be without the priesthood?