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Guest Commentary: Let priests know they are appreciated and treasured

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Oct. 26 is Priesthood Sunday. The Delaware Knights of Columbus and members of the Diocese of Wilmington look forward to this day each year to recognize and celebrate our priests in the Catholic Church for all they do throughout the year and to encourage and pray for vocations to the priesthood.

Parishes each have their own special way of marking this day (cards, personal contacts, Masses, etc.), but each has the same purpose and that is to let our priests know they are very much appreciated, treasured and cherished by their flock.

It’s a day to reflect upon and affirm the central role of the priesthood in the life of the church. Priesthood is not a job or a career, not a set of functions or tasks, but rather a commitment of one’s entire life to a privileged relationship with Christ for, and only for, the service of God’s holy people.

Within that Catholic tradition, priests represent Jesus’ actions and witness to the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, in baptism, in the preaching of the word and in countless other ways large and small.

As St. John Paul II said: “Without the priest, there is simply no Catholic Church.”

In September, Father William Jennings and Father Howard Clark were called to the Lord after decades of dedicated service in our diocese. For 74 years, Father Jennings devoted his priesthood to pastoral ministries that included bringing Christ to communities that did not previously have Catholic parish churches in their area. For 57 years, Father Clark brought the Word of God to parishes and students through his educational roles as principal and superintendent of schools.

Without their “Yes” to their calling, this may not have been possible. Both provided the spiritual leadership that only a priest can impart.

St. John Vianney reflected on the life of the priest in the following way:

“Oh how great is the priest. Without the sacrament of holy orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest  Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest.  Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if the soul should happen to die (as a result of sin) who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything! Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the bishop, priests, and seminarians of the Diocese of Wilmington for their devotion and ministry. On behalf of the more than 200,000 parishioners in our diocese, we want to wish them a blessed Priesthood Sunday. We are grateful for your lives of service.

 

For more information about Priesthood Sunday, go to priestsunday.org.

Body is state deputy, Delaware State Council, Knights of Columbus.