This Year for Priests proclaimed by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has been a blessing for our presbyterate and for our diocese. For our priests, it has been a privileged occasion to reflect on their vocations. For all members of our local church it has raised the profile of priesthood and, I hope, their level of moral and spiritual support for those in priestly ministry among them.
Two recent events extended and deepened that blessing. March 30 at Sacred Heart Cathedral we celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at which I blessed the oils to be used for the sacraments in the year ahead — the Oil of Chrism, the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick. And, as is the custom at the Chrism Mass each year, our assembled presbyterate renewed their commitment to their priestly vocation.
The Chrism Mass is a joyful experience for many reasons — the music, the presence of people from all parts of our diocese, the racial and ethnic diversity that is evident. But each year as I converse with people in the narthex after Mass, the most common comment I hear expresses pleasure at the presence of so many of our priests at the liturgy and their renewal of their priestly promises. I can readily identify with such comments because my experience of the moment is much the same as theirs.
The second event occurred March 31 at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua. A large number of our priests gathered for a Lenten Day of Prayer and Recollection. The gathering theme for the session was the presentation and explanation of the results of a research survey in which many of us participated last year. The survey was conducted by Saint Luke Institute and was designed to offer a picture of the health, morale and well-being of our presbyterate. Our presenter was Father Stephen Rossetti, immediate past director of Saint Luke.
I am happy to tell you that the picture Father Rossetti drew for us was very positive. The job satisfaction, morale and happiness level of our priests is at a very high level. It is a fair summary of the findings, I think, to say that notwithstanding a substantial workload and sometimes very heavy demands, that the vast majority of our priests at the core of their being love their vocation and find great joy in it.
The findings challenged us as well. Life is never perfect. We are not perfect. In a nutshell, Father Rossetti encouraged us always to open our hearts to a deeper relationship with the Lord, to exercise more and to develop better nutritional habits!
It was a delight for me to be with so many of our priests on those two occasions. They remind me of God’s faithful love shown to us in so many ways. Our brother priests are truly blessings to our diocese. I ask you please during the Easter season to pray for their continued growth and well-being; and to pray that other men will respond to their call to consider this beautiful vocation. If they do, the chances are very high that they will lead a happy, stimulating and fulfilling life.
Peace to all.