Gatherings offer priests food, fellowship, support - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Gatherings offer priests food, fellowship, support

Father Tony Mugavero, pastor of Holy Apostles Parish in Rochester, hosted a dinner the evening of Jan. 28 to which he invited priests and pastoral administrators who work in city parishes.

It was strictly a social occasion. There was no agenda so conversation flowed across a range of subjects — work, family, health, mutual friends, sports, shared memories, music, other common concerns and interests.

There were nine of us present. We all enjoyed the abundant, delicious food offered to us. By all appearances all at table found it a relaxing and enjoyable experience. I know that I did.

The evening at Holy Apostles reminds me that the enjoyment of such Saturday evening gatherings is not unusual in our diocese. I cannot number the groups that so gather on a regular basis. But I do know that there are several of them. I know further that the practice means a great deal to those who are a part of them.

I suppose that there are as many reasons for that enjoyment as there are people who participate. Common among them, I am quite sure, are the opportunity to spend time with old friends and to develop new friendships; a chance to compare notes with others who share much of our experience and understand it; the gift of simply being able to relax with friends and enjoy a fine meal together.

Those who participate in these supper groups generally take turns hosting them. Sometimes the host prepares the meal, more often friends or parishioners volunteer to do the honors. And there are still a few parishes that employ someone part time to prepare food for the household.

For obvious reasons the host asks the members of the group to make known in advance whether they will be present or not. But it is understood that within the general time frame, people arrive when they can and leave when they must.

I do not present the existence of such groups as being new in our diocese. I remember from my earlier days here the monthly meeting of the "North of the Ridge Chowder and Marching Society" in Rochester; and a rotation of lunches among the pastors of Auburn. Nor do I suggest that our diocese is the only one to enjoy such a happy custom.

It seems to me that this custom is richly life giving and important to our priests. The experience of the aging process, diminished numbers and an ever-challenging workload can combine to erode morale. These times together are reminders that they are in it with others and that they are understood and supported.

There are many other sources of encouragement as well — support groups, personal and public prayer, continuing study, retreats, Convocation, the prayer and encouragement of the people among whom we are privileged to serve.

One last reality, I am sure, is of encouragement to them, and I hope to you. That is the fact that in the academic year beginning in August we will have 21 students in major seminaries preparing to be ordained priests for our diocese. That is the greatest number we have had in several decades. Those students are a sign and reminder to us priests that the vocation we live means enough to others that they, too, want to follow it.

As I thank Tony again for the kindness of the evening, I ask you to pray for the priests of our diocese, for our seminarians and for all young men who experience, even in a beginning way, a call to priesthood.

Peace to all.

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