Gifts of presbyterate recalled - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Gifts of presbyterate recalled

One of God’s good favors to me this month was the opportunity to lead the annual retreat for the priests of the Diocese of Albany.

You may recall that I was born and raised in the Albany area. I was initiated into the faith there and later was ordained for the service of that local church.

When I came to Rochester in 1979, I came with the thought in the back of my mind that I would never say no to a request from Albany if I could possibly say yes to it. It seemed an appropriate disposition to have, in view of the fact that the Albany community had formed me in the faith and educated me to priesthood.

I had to remember that basic orientation when I was invited to lead the retreat. I had not done any retreat work in years and wondered if it was fair to old friends to begin again with them.

In the end, I am grateful that I could put aside my fears and apprehensions and do what they so kindly asked. The experience was a very graced one for me. It provided the chance for reunion with friends I’ve known since the first year of high school — friends I seldom see because of the circumstances of our lives.

As you might expect, we reminisced a great deal. We traded news of mutual friends and, of course, we told the kind of stories that old friends tell when they get together — the ones that are basically fine but that expand with each successive telling and, inevitably, leave everyone laughing.

But the joy of those days came from more than remembering friends and telling fond stories. In the privileged context of retreat, we had opportunities to share personal experiences of how the Lord has so patiently shaped us and helped us to grow through the years as human beings and as ministers of the Gospel.

A parallel grace of those quiet days flowed from my awareness that the priests of our diocese were enjoying their annual retreat at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua at the very same time. I asked the Albany priests to join me in prayer for our men, and they gladly did that.

As I look back on those days, I recognize that even as I tried to immerse myself in the spirit of the priests of Albany, I was very much aware of the gifts and strength of our own presbyterate.

I have always thought that parishes and presbyterates — even dioceses — are much like siblings in a family. They hold many values and connections in common. These join them in relatively stable relationships and undergird their unity in good times and bad. Each has its own story. Each has its own set of skills and talents, its own strengths and weaknesses. These distinguish one presbyterate from others and help shape their own personalities.

When I returned home I did so with renewed memories and a deeper awareness of the presbyterate into which I was ordained a priest. Thanks to the Albany priests, I have been able to savor more deeply than ever the beautiful gifts of our own presbyterate — generosity, faithful service, care for one another and for those in need, a willingness to stretch themselves in service to the kingdom.

Please keep priests in your prayers — wherever they serve. We all owe them a great deal.

Peace to all.

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