By Chuck Lynch
Priesthood Sunday is a special day set aside for Catholics to thank, affirm and share their love and support for our priests. It is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of October (Oct. 26 this year), and has been promoted primarily by the USA Council of Serra International and Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
Serra International is a lay organization within the church that fosters and promotes vocations through prayer, awareness, affirmation and support. It is named after Blessed Junipero Serra, an 18th century Spanish Franciscan priest who established the missions on the California coast.
Personally, I have many priests to thank for their influence on my life and their help to my family. My mother was Father Joe Voor’s first convert to the Catholic faith when he had only been a priest for about 12 months. He has been a tremendous influence on my family, assisting with sacraments, celebrations and sorrows over the last 63 years. Now he’s the oldest priest in the diocese!
My wife Sally and I remember how, during our college years at Bellarmine, Chaplain John Deatrick was a ubiquitous presence on campus. Early in our marriage, we got to know Father Joe Fowler as he formed a new community, what is now St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. Father John Gephart (who died earlier this year) personally came to visit our home when we first became parishioners of St. Barnabas parish 36 years ago. Father Gary Davis was such a positive influence on many youth at St. Barnabas, including our two sons, who continue to quote him. My wife’s brother, Father Chris Eggleton, OP, became a Dominican priest in 1988; and it has been a source of great pride to have such an inspiring priest in the family.
We got to know Father Jeff Nicolas well during his first years after ordination and even watched his cockatiel “Zed” when he went out of town. Sally and I enjoyed Father Jeff and that bird so much that Sally now raises cockatiels. We’ll never forget how thoughtful Father Jack Barker (who died in 2004) was to visit with us just hours after our home burned up in a fire.
And Archbishop Thomas Kelly (who died in 2011), fellow Dominican who ordained my brother-in-law, was always so kind to notice how frequently Sally ended up being a Confirmation sponsor. We are proud of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as he leads the Louisville archdiocese and still finds time to lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sally and I have such fond memories of many priests over the years, too many to list here. Priests are a significant part of the lives of all Catholics. They have ministered to us, preached to us, counseled us, and they continue to journey with us in our spiritual lives, even after they retire.
Some ideas for you, your family and your parish for celebrating Priesthood Sunday:
Pray for your priest and all priests. Personally thank your priest on Priesthood Sunday, or any day. Send a thank you note or letter. Invite your priest for dinner with your family or friends.
Send a card or letter to a priest who used to serve at your parish. Have children make a homemade card or color a picture. Go on an outing together — a restaurant, a play, golf, concert or a movie. Send them goody baskets, balloon bouquets or flowers.
Have you lost track of your high school or college chaplain, the priest who performed your wedding, a retired priest, a former pastor? Look them up at www.ArchLou.org/directory.
For some related Priesthood Sunday parish planning guides, church liturgies and school activities, see www.priestsunday.org.
Chuck Lynch is a member of the Serra Club of Louisville. He and his wife Sally are members of St. Barnabas Church.