This past Friday evening we celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation for our parish teenagers – truly a time of great rejoicing! In our own day and age it requires a great deal of strength to both live and defend our Catholic Faith and this strength can only come from the Holy Spirit who touched the hearts of our newly confirmand in a particular way through the Sacrament of Confirmation. Congratulations to all of our teens who were confirmed and may the Holy Spirit continue to pour His gifts into their hearts and enflame them with a love of God that never weakens!
Next Sunday we will continue our special sacramental celebrations with the celebration of First Communion for our parish Second Graders – once again, the Lord will touch the hearts of our children in a particularly profound way – by the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. May they always stay close to the Mass and the gift of the Eucharist! Please pray for our newly confirmed teenagers and for our children who will be celebrating First Communion – we are a community and so even if we don’t have a member of our family celebrating Confirmation or First Communion, it’s important to pray for them as the entire community receives graces when these celebrations take place and are something we all can rejoice in!
Speaking of the request of prayers, I, along with many priests of the Archdiocese, will be gone for a few days the first week of May at our annual Spring Assembly of Priests. This annual gathering usually focuses around a specific topic applicable to our priestly ministry; gives us the opportunity to honor those priests celebrating ordination jubilee years; listen to our Archbishop as he addresses us; and gives us an opportunity for fraternity and camaraderie. Please keep us all in prayer. As you may know May also serves as the time for ordinations to the priesthood. Please pray for the three men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese and also please be sure to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood. If you recall, last year I published a series of articles laying out the Archdiocesan planning efforts centered on demographic shifts in the Catholic population, as well as attempting to make sure that priestly ministry is available as much as possible in an era of a declining number of priests. As I pointed out, we cannot ignore this reality of the fewer numbers of priests and while we have been talking about it as a diocese for many years, the reality continues to come to the fore – for instance, this year there will be three new priests for the Archdiocese, fifty years earlier, in 1966, there were 23 priests ordained for Milwaukee. The reality is that the face of priestly ministry has changed and will continue to change and these changes will probably become more visible in the near future.
While the declining number of priests is a very real situation, I do believe that there are many, many more being called to the priesthood than we see being ordained. We live in a culture where commitment, sacrifice and a sense of the centrality of spiritual realities over earthly realities have all been obscured – in order to encourage more priestly vocations we all need to honor these three things in our own vocations thereby bearing witness to young people of their importance and their beauty. Please pray for vocations every day – pray that the Lord will continue to call men to serve Him as priests, but also pray that those who are called may see clearly their call and be given the courage to say “yes” to it. If you know of someone at St. Mary’s who is or should be considering the priesthood, please let me know and if you who are reading this are thinking about the priesthood, please let me know or visit the Vocations Office website, www.thinkpriest.org – one never regrets saying “yes” to God!