MaryangelaSchool is back in session for another semester so how about a pop quiz!

What special year has Pope Benedict XVI declared from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010?

Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t know the correct answer — the Year for Priests.

I suspect many Catholics might not be aware of the focus on priesthood that the pope is calling us to observe in an effort to “encourage spiritual perfection” in priests. 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.”

He also noted that the “centrality of Christ leads to a correct valuation of ordained ministry” and that without priestly ministry, there would be no Eucharist, no mission and even no church.

In an effort to draw attention to the Year for Priests, Catholic Herald Parenting ran a contest in spring asking readers to tell us about the special priests in their lives, through illustrations or brief essays. The responses were heartwarming and inspiring! You can read or see the
winning entries on the cover and Pages 6 and 7 of this issue.

When I think of the special priests in my life, a handful come to mind immediately. Xaverian Frs. Dominic and Frank helped our family through my mom’s shortlived and unsuccessful battle with cancer. Not only did Fr. Dominic spend hours at the hospital with us, but the morning she died at home, he was there to comfort my dad, my sisters and I as we tried to make sense of the incomprehensible.

Then there’s Fr. Turner at Blessed Sacrament Parish, a marvelous role model for my girls and all the students at Blessed Sacrament School. Known for his short, to-the-point homilies, he leaves parishioners with a concrete thought to ponder for the week. But perhaps his most poignant lessons are the ones he teaches through his actions: the candy bars he doles out on the feast of
his namesake, St. Robert, guided field trips he leads annually for the Blessed Sacrament students to Holy Hill for a behind-the-scenes tour of the basilica and Mass at the beautiful shrine, or just his frequent, visible priestly presence for the students around the parish and in their classrooms.

He recently taught a lesson in compassion during a funeral Mass he was to celebrate for an elderly parishioner. She died alone and the only one who showed up for her Mass was her attorney, but Fr. Turner didn’t feel that was a proper send-off. He pulled the middle school children out of class and not only asked them to pray with him for the deceased, but showed them the meaning of Catholic community, making sure the Blessed Sacrament community was there for her.

Finally, there’s Fr. José, Jesuit pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick parishes. What doesn’t he do? Between traveling to Mexico once a month to teach the math curriculum he developed, to installing windows at the parish, to visiting prisoners weekly, he’s constantly on the go, serving others. His reverence for the Eucharist as he speaks the words at the consecration is obvious and following Christ’s example, he draws the little children to him – weekly at Mass for a special blessing and quick catechism lesson just before the Our Father. He, too, leads by example.

And you, our readers, shared so many similar stories of the way priests have had an impact upon your lives as they carry on the work of Christ. Hopefully, these stories will help us grow in appreciation for the priests who serve our archdiocese, and who play a central role in our Catholic traditions and the practice of our faith.

This edition of Catholic Herald Parenting unveils our new look. While you’ll find many of the familiar articles, features and columnists, they are packaged in a new layout, which we hope makes our publication more attractive and easier to read. It was created by Erik Peterson, a graphic artist in our Catholic Herald production department.

Have a wonderful year!