The spiritual works of priests are wide-ranging and, for most of us, go unknown. Outside of weekend Masses, many Catholics in the pews don’t have a lot of opportunities to engage with priests. However, when there is a serious illness or death in the family, when a wedding is announced or a baby arrives, priests are called upon to provide spiritual guidance.
So what do priests think about the affirmative words they read or hear on Priesthood Sunday? Two priests who serve as regional vicars for the diocese responded to a request for comments from The Compass.
“While Priesthood Sunday comes but once each year, it is important for priests to know that their ministry is appreciated the other 51 Sundays and weeks as well,” said Fr. Richard Getchel, pastor of St. Mary Parish in De Pere and vicar for Region VI. He noted that during the recent Clergy Congress, a special emphasis was placed on stewardship, adding that an important component of stewardship is “continually thanking people for all they do in building up the church.”
“Priests like to hear that, too,” added Fr. Getchel. “One gentleman in the parish each week comes up to me in the gathering space following Mass and always says, ‘Thank you for bringing us Eucharist today.’ That is always nice to hear and much appreciated.”
Fr. Richard Klingeisen, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Clarks Mills and vicar for Region V, agreed that thank-yous and acknowledgements on Priesthood Sunday are affirming. “I know that the last several years, as a member of the St. Francis of Assisi (Manitowoc) team, it was nice to see The Compass promote Priesthood Sunday in this way,” he said. “My most rewarding part of serving as a priest is to be able to be present for the sick and elderly, to be able to preach and to provide the eucharistic liturgy for youth and adults.”
Preaching the good news, in a world that sometimes turns a deaf ear to it, can be challenging to priests and lead to disillusionment. As Fr. Klingeisen stated, “The most challenging (aspect) is to be able to convince others to live out their faith by regular religious practices.”
Not only do priests need moral support, they need the help of the laity. Fr. Getchel said that in a parish environment, “a pastor needs as many people as possible to be involved with him in ministry.” This includes the parish staff. “The reward is to have and work with these good people,” he said. “The challenge for all of them is to bring about the kingdom with the talents and gifts with which they have been blessed.”
Pope Francis, on numerous occasions, has said that priests must approach their ministry with true joy. “There is no holiness in sadness,” he said to a group of seminarians and men and women considering religious life. “Don’t be afraid of showing the joy of having answered the Lord’s call.”
The same lesson applies to us. We, the laity, need to demonstrate our joy for having received the Lord’s blessings, given to us through the sacraments or other means, through our priests. This weekend, make it a priority to greet a priest before or after Mass and thank him for his service to the church. It will go a long way in helping him live out his vocation with joy.