By Denise Fedorow
SYRACUSE — It’s traditional during the Catechetical Institute Day, which was held Nov. 7 at Wawasee Middle School in Syracuse, for an exemplary catechist to receive the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Award. This year the recipient was Bishop John M. D’Arcy.
Sister Jane Carew, former director of the Office of Catechesis, along with current director Jim Tighe made the presentation.
“Today we want to give it to you, in grateful thanksgiving for being our chief shepherd, for your steadfast teaching of the faith and for helping us grow, especially in the last year, in love and admiration for our first Indiana saint — St. Mother Theodore Guérin,” Sister Carew said.
The bishop was presented with a “beautiful book of Gospels to use however you wish.” Sister Carew said the special book had been saved for the bishop and she added, “Today is the perfect day as we thank God for the gift of our priests. Your constant encouragement for our Hispanic brothers and sisters, who make up half of those attending today, shows the great growth that has taken place.”
The theme for this year’s Catechetical Institute Day was “Celebrating the Gift of Priesthood.” Bishop D’Arcy was the keynote speaker. He told the approximately 380 attendees that this was the first time in history that it was ever declared the year for priests.
He emphasized “for” priests not “of” the priest, saying it was an important distinction as it was a year for the priests humility, sanctification, becoming more holy, offer more service and more love for Jesus Christ.
“When we understand the role of the priest, we better understand our own calling,” he said.
“The parish priest, in my opinion, is the summit of priesthood,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “They deal with the sick, teens, babies, weddings and funerals — the full spectrum.”
The bishop said Pope Benedict in one of his writings before becoming pope, placed the root of priesthood in the call of the apostles. According to Scripture Jesus called the apostles by name. He decided who would follow him and he called them to be with him and to be sent out.
“The priest, bishop and deacon must hear that call,” he said.
Bishop D’Arcy shared his own struggle, saying he was sure he wanted to be a priest but was concerned whether it was an authentic call from Christ. “Once a person accepts that call through grace there comes a peace and you’re able to give everything to Jesus Christ.”
The bishop said Jesus Christ was a priest and victim; he transformed the priesthood by his acceptance of the will of God and he said that’s the sacrifice God wants from us.
“We’re joined to Christ’s priesthood by doing his will,” he said.
“The vocation of priesthood is not like hiring of employees. It comes from prayer. The prayers of young men, of parents, the pastor and the parish,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “Teach your children to pray — if a young person has dialogue with God they will realize their vocation.”
Bishop D’Arcy told attendees, “We’ve learned it’s more important to have good priests, not many priests. A good quality priest is an instrument of vocation.”
The bishop reminded his audience that no one can speak the homily but a priest, bishop or deacon who’ve been trained and ordained. “Without a priest we don’t have the Eucharist, we don’t have the word of God and we don’t have confessions. “
He spoke of the importance of the laity in encouraging vocations and faith formation.
“It’s the witness value — people today listen to witnesses, not teachers. If they listen to teachers it’s because they’re also witnesses.”
“Priesthood is the love of the heart of Christ. Jesus Christ is the good shepherd and his promise was, ‘I will not leave you orphans.’ That’s what the parish priest is for.”
In closing the bishop said, “If we want lay people to flourish in ministry to the church, it cannot be opposed to priesthood. A parish will only flourish when the pastor is devoted to ministry of the lay people.”
The Bishop Luers choir sang during Mass and during the homily Bishop D’Arcy spoke of the “new evangelization,” saying the message is the same, it’s the method that is new, using television and computers and new in ardor and also new in the mindset that every place is missionary — the places where we work and play, not just foreign countries.
Bishop D’Arcy also gave a blessing to the catechists. The afternoon had three sessions of training workshops for participants.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.