The following was prepared by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and Auxiliary Bishops Thomas Curry, Gabino Zavala, Joseph Sartoris, Gerald Wilkerson, Edward Clark, Oscar Solis and Alexander Salazar:
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared the Year for Priests beginning on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, June 19, and ending on the same Feast Day next year.
We invite all the members of our Archdiocese of Los Angeles to join us in welcoming this very special year of prayer and renewal for all the wonderful priests who serve our parishes and apostolates with such great commitment, zeal and personal sacrifice after the example of Jesus Christ, our eternal High Priest.
In a recent address, the Pope said that the priestly ministry consists of total adherence to the ecclesial tradition of participating “in a spiritually intense new life and a new lifestyle which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which the apostles made their own.” He said he was calling for the special Year for Priests in an effort to foster the priest’s yearning “for spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends.”
Priests must also be “present, identifiable and recognizable — for their judgment of faith, their personal virtues and their attire — in the fields of culture and charity which have always been at the heart of the Church’s mission,” he said.
He emphasized that the Second Vatican Council called for a true collaboration of those gifts bestowed by Baptism and those given through Ordination. “The centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of ordained ministry without which there would be no Eucharist, no mission, and even no Church.”
In the past few years, Catholic priests have come under a broad-brush attack because of the immoral and criminal actions of a few. Some 97 percent of our priests have never been involved in misconduct, but were so portrayed by many in the general media. Our Catholic people have recognized this reality, and you have rallied around your priests, prayed for them, and supported them in many ways.
Our Council of Priests is developing a variety of activities during this Year of the Priest to deepen the spiritual lives of all our priests, to renew their enthusiasm for their share in Christ’s priesthood, to recommit their daily lives to loving service in the name of Jesus, and to affirm them in their spiritual and pastoral work.
We are inviting all the members of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to join together in a variety of special activities to support our wonderful priests. The following are just a few beginning examples:
—Pray frequently for all of our priests — especially at Mass, during the Rosary, and in all our prayers. Sample prayers will be provided to our parishes.
—Speak words of gratitude and encouragement to our priests. We often feel that sentiment in our hearts, but fail to say it out loud to our priests.
—Offer to place your own Baptismal gifts at the service of the Church and of your parish — especially in those areas where you have special expertise or training. This helps lighten the burden of our priests who try to accomplish far too many pastoral tasks. Don’t hesitate to say, “Father, please let me help!”
—Encourage your priests to take time for their spiritual lives, retreats, and quiet time. By nourishing our priests, you instill a deeper life in Christ — and the result will be more prayerful Liturgies, homilies and other pastoral works.
—Establish a Parish Vocation Committee to pray for and encourage more priestly and religious vocations at the parish level. Develop a Vocation Plan that engages the entire parish in fostering more vocations for the coming years.
—Find out the Ordination anniversary date for your priests, and celebrate that anniversary every year. Recall how faithful married couples are to celebrate their wedding anniversary and how they renew their commitment for another year. Our priests need the same annual encouragement.
—Consider holding a special recognition event for your priests — possibly Vespers prayed together in the Church for priests, followed by a parish potluck.
—Be creative in your own parish community to help support and sustain your priests during this Year for Priests!
During this special Year our Holy Father will proclaim St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, to be the patron saint of priests. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of this 19th century saint who, as the Pope said, represents “a true example of a priest at the service of the flock of Christ.”
St. John Vianney, pray for all of our priests!