A few days ago, Fr. Robert, one of the spiritual directors at the seminary, told me that he has seen such an authentic sense of growth and holiness in the seminarians just since September. I think that all parents are proud to see the growth and development of their children; even so, with spiritual children.

At Saturday’s celebration I also had the happy chance of meeting Sr. Alice, a member of the Religious Order of Sisters (Sisters of St. Joseph, Third Order Franciscan) who taught me in elementary school in Chicago. The family of the church felt really comfortable and very welcoming on Saturday. Even though I was meeting some folks for the first time, I discovered so many ways where we were connected through various spiritual bonds.

We don’t always take time to remember the ways that we feel “at home” in the church. Sometimes we really need to make a conscious effort to consider all the ways we are connected to one another. Parish ties and family ties. We have school ties and social ties; we have belonged to prayer groups and to various associations of the faithful that we have long forgotten but remember so quickly when our memories are jogged just a little.

As I told you earlier I have been praying for and remembering the priests in my life. There were so many when I was growing up and they were such positive and good role models for me. I knew, when I was little, that I wanted to be a priest. I knew that by seeing the things the priests did, how helpful they were to our family when we really needed the church’s help. I watched them when they celebrated the Mass and how they prayed afterward. This reminds me of Msgr. Edward J. Smaza, my pastor for most of my life, how he used to keep all the Mass servers for a full half-hour of silent prayer in the sacristy after morning Mass.

Frs. Ben, Ed and Henry were the great teachers and helped the sisters teach us our catechism for first holy Communion and confirmation. Frs. Al and Joe were the Teen Club moderators as I got a little older. All of the last names were Polish, and while I can remember them, I probably could not spell them here without really messing up!

My life is filled with good memories of good priests. Many more came along once I entered the Franciscans and they have been added to my list.
I hope that you can think of some of the important memories in your life that had some positive priestly moments. Regrettably, not all priests have left people with such good memories as mine. I am so sorry for that, so sorry, indeed. I sure do hope that we can take some time, however, and try to reflect on those priests, during this Year for Priests, who really have done good and helped us to know God better and live well in this world as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

There are still about six months before the Year for Priests ends. I sure hope that you can take some time and offer a prayer for the priest who baptized you, or married you, or was there at a critical time for your family. Please pray that others will respond to God’s call to priesthood and religious life so that someone will always be there for us in the future!

See you at Mass!