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January 11, 2007 Edition

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Power of collar:
Priest experiences moments of grace

Is there power in the collar worn by priests? Fr. Jim Bartylla of the Diocese of Madison would say a resounding "yes." He has definitely witnessed some special encounters with people due to his wearing the black and white symbol of the priesthood.

Here is one example. Father Bartylla - director of vocations for the Diocese of Madison - tells about driving on the busy Beltline Hwy. in Madison recently. He was heading downtown to St. Paul's University Catholic Center, where he meets regularly with students.

Encounter with police car. A police car passed Father Bartylla on the left, then moved into the lane in front of his car. The policeman seemed to be looking back at Father Bartylla. The priest was getting a little nervous, checking to make sure he wasn't going too fast.

The police officer exited at Rimrock Rd., as did Father Bartylla. The police car pulled up next to the priest and the officer motioned for Father Bartylla to roll down his window. The officer said he noticed Father Bartylla's collar and wanted to talk with him.

Father Bartylla said, "Sure." He found out that the policeman had just come from a terribly sad scene in a home. A mother sleeping with her baby had rolled over and killed the infant. The officer was called to the scene and was unable to resuscitate the baby. He was carrying the baby to the morgue.

He had been upset by the tragic situation and asked Father Bartylla to offer prayers for the baby and the family, which he did, praying also for the policeman. Father Bartylla then drove with the officer to the morgue.

Special moments of grace. Because this policeman saw his collar, Father Bartylla was able to offer him support and the peace of Christ at this trying time. Father Bartylla said this is not the only time he has been approached. For example, a young woman recently asked him for advice as he was eating at a local restaurant. They talked for over 15 minutes.

I'm sure many other priests - and Sisters, too - have examples of how their collars or religious habit or symbols have brought them into special moments of God's grace with people. These examples show us how much we need vocations to priesthood and consecrated life in our world today.

Pray and encourage vocations. As we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week from January 8 to 14, we are reminded to pray for and encourage much-needed church vocations: priests, deacons, Brothers and Sisters in consecrated life, and those in sacramental married life.

I urge all people in our diocese to do their part to promote vocations. Read the special Vocations section in this week's Catholic Herald. Or go to the Diocese of Madison's Vocations Web site (www.madisonvocations.org) for more ideas.

We know the power of the collar. Let's make sure it's available for people in the future to experience the healing touch of Christ.

Mary C. Uhler

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Madison, WI 53744-4985

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Retired priests appreciate prayers and financial support

To the editor:

Fr. William Bausch wrote about a priest that by age 20 lost every person whom he ever loved or might have loved. Death robbed him of his mother, father, brother, and sister. I am sure that he offered his suffering to God. Then his superior informed him that his appointment as a bishop was pending. Immediately he sped to an Ursuline convent to pray for guidance. Eight hours later, the priest was still praying.

The priest became Pope John Paul II. One of many things that impressed me about Pope John Paul is that he served as pope even when his health deteriorated.

During the collection for retired priests, I thought of some retired priests who like Pope John Paul, serve and have served the church in wheelchairs or supported by canes. Recently parishioners contributed to the priests retirement fund as a way to thank retired priests for sacrifices they make or have made.

Retired priests also appreciate prayers and support. Recently I discovered individuals and a group, who with the retired priest's permission, helps to meet their seen, unseen, and unmet needs. Since I have enjoyed their kindness, I join the priests they have served in thanking these generous persons.

Fr. Don Lange, Madison, retired priest, Diocese of Madison

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Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
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