Thanking God for our ‘spiritual fathers’ Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Jun. 18, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Friday, June 26, will be a day of great joy in the Diocese of Madison. On that day, Bishop Robert C. Morlino will ordain six men to the priesthood at St. Maria Goretti Church in Madison.

Five of these men have been seminarians for the Diocese of Madison and one is a member of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest who will be serving in our diocese.

More information on all six transitional deacons can be found in this week’s print edition of the Catholic Herald. We are indeed fortunate to have such fine men willing to serve our diocese as priests. They make us proud!

Why we support seminarians

We have heard much recently in our diocese about the Priests for Our Future campaign to support the education of our future priests.
Someone asked me why the people of our diocese help pay for the education of seminarians. (Of course, the degree of support depends on their level of study.)

I responded that our seminarians will be ordained to serve our diocese in parishes, schools, health care institutions, prisons, and wherever they are needed.

Unlike people trained in professions, deacons and priests do not ultimately decide what they will do and where they will go. Although they have some say in their assignments, it is up to the bishop (with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Personnel Board) to appoint them to their ministry position.

As Bishop Morlino has often said, at ordination priests become in persona Christi — another Christ. After ordination, they are sent on a mission from Christ.

Growing numbers

We are fortunate that the number of seminarians in our diocese has grown tremendously in the last 10 years. Much of this can be attributed to diocesan recruitment efforts and especially to a great deal of prayer.

Besides continuing to ask God to call men to serve as priests, we should thank God for his blessings on our diocese and thank the men themselves for answering His call.

In my years on the staff of the Catholic Herald, I have had the privilege of getting to know many priests in the Diocese of Madison.

Our priests are holy, wise, dedicated, sensitive, well-educated, loving, humorous, faith-filled men — and those are only some of the good qualities I’ve observed.

Priests lead busy lives

I am aware that many of our priests work long hours, from early morning Mass to evening meetings. Their sleep may be interrupted at night by a call to visit a dying person in the hospital.

They prepare engaged couples for marriage and counsel couples having marital problems. They baptize babies, hear first Confessions, give first Communion, prepare young people for Confirmation, and anoint the sick. They give instructions to those entering the Catholic Church. They help in food pantries and meal programs. They visit the imprisoned. They march for life.

The list goes on and on. In some ways, priests are like parents: their job never ends. The priesthood is a 24/7 career — and will continue into eternity.

Some take priests for granted

Unfortunately, I think some Catholics take priests for granted. Although, with a shortage of priests in more recent years, we may be starting to appreciate them a little more.

With the approaching ordination and Father’s Day preceding it on June 21, I have thought about whether we should honor our spiritual fathers — our priests — on Father’s Day, too.

In a talk with parish priests last year, Pope Francis linked the two kinds of fatherhood together.

The Holy Father spoke about “the joy of being a priest.” There is nothing more beautiful for a man than to be called to the priesthood, he said, called to follow Jesus, to be with Him, to bring Jesus to others, to bring them His word and His forgiveness.

Pope Francis encouraged the priests in their work “with families and for the family.” It is a difficult time, he said, both for the family as an institution and for individual families that struggle in the crises they face. Priests, he said, “are called to be witnesses and mediators” of God’s “nearness to families, and of the prophetic force” of God’s Word “for the family.”

As we congratulate our soon to be ordained new priests, we might also thank the priests we know in our parishes who are indeed our “spiritual fathers.” May God continue to bless them all!