As I begin to write this morning, I am mindful that in two days (June 4) we will ordain John Loncle to the ministerial priesthood at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
That prospect fills me with joy. John, a man of great ability and notable maturity, has prepared prayerfully and thoughtfully for priesthood. He will be a wonderful new member of our presbyterate and a generous servant of the people.
Among the many moving moments of the rite will be that in which the people affirm John’s ordination by a sustained and vigorous round of applause. In that lovely moment, the assembly will express their affection and continued support for John. But, they will also be signaling their love for the priesthood and for the individual priests who have touched their lives.
That abiding respect and affection for priesthood was evident in a lovely event in which I participated last Sunday. Father Dan Holland was kind enough to invite me to join family and many friends at a dinner at which we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Dan’s ordination to the priesthood. During the course of the program, Dan’s family, friends, parishioners past and present, and coworkers expressed their affection and respect for this good man. It was evident that he has had a positive and lasting impact on their lives. He has meant something very important to them.
In the next several days, I will be able to share in similar events in honor of other priests celebrating anniversaries — Paul Wohlrab, Dan Tormey and Tom Erdle. I know that the kindness and affection that will be shown them on those occasions will be very much like gifts showered on Dan that day.
On the Friday afternoon prior to John Loncle’s ordination, several men — I am not sure how many at this writing — will gather at the St. Charles Borromeo Prayer Center for an overnight retreat. The participants have been personally invited by their parish priests because their priests have noted in them qualities and habits of life that are important in the priestly vocation.
Several of us will speak to them about the genesis of our own vocations and of our daily experiences. The participants, of course, will have a chance to share their questions and curiosities about priesthood. This is not a high-pressure event. Just some quiet conversation and some prayer. The event will conclude with their participation in John’s ordination on Saturday morning.
I am looking forward to the retreat and do hope that it will be a time of grace for those who attend. And, most certainly, I hope that one day some who attend will be ordained priests.
Those of us who share our stories will do the best we can to convey the deep and abiding joy that is ours in priesthood. We will talk about happy times and the very demanding ones, our successes and failures, moments of growth and the stretches when we seem to be treading water. All of us will want to convey an honest picture of priesthood that is challenging to the spirit but ultimately joyful because it is spent in service of a loving God and God’s holy people.
In the last analysis, I think that the joyful affirmation by the assembly at John Loncle’s ordination will have as much impact on the retreatants as any of our words. And I wish that all of our retreatants could have heard the moving and heart-felt tributes to priesthood at Dan Holland’s anniversary party.
Please pray for John Loncle and for all of our priests. Please pray for new vocations to priesthood.
Peace to all.