I wrote this for the parish bulletin on the occasion of the priestly ordinations in May. I meant to share it here sooner. I edited out some parish information that doesn't need to be here.
By the time you read this, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr will have ordained three new priests for the Archdiocese: Rev. David Doseck, Rev. Peter Langenkamp, and Rev. Alex Witt. I’m writing this ahead of time; I plan to be at the Ordination Mass myself. These are fine men becoming priests.
Although I can’t always do it, I try to attend the priestly ordination Mass every year. It’s getting harder to find priests who can cover my obligations here, so that I can attend, which is a reminder that we need more priests. And, while these three are fine men, we really need to be ordaining 10-15 a year in order to turn things around. At this point, we’re keeping things steady, but not improving.
Last week, I had two interesting questions about the priesthood. The first came when I was teaching the first-graders about some of the things we do at Mass; one child asked, “is it fun being a priest?” The short answer is, lots of things are “fun,” but I also explained that some of the best things about being a priest aren’t “fun” but certainly powerful and rewarding: visiting people who are sick, counseling people in trouble, and helping people come back to Christ.
On Tuesday evening, I was with some men of the parish, and they asked what is “hardest” about being a priest. We talked about several things, but what stood out to me – and which I tried to stress – was that what is most difficult isn’t what people imagine. One time I had to anoint a woman while on the operating table, with open-heart surgery. Another time, I was asked to pray over a man who’d died, and who wasn’t found for several days. Several times, I’ve been with people experiencing the most devastating losses. Were these difficult? Sure; but they were also moments when I really felt God’s grace helping me do things I could never have done otherwise; and in those moments, Jesus really made himself present to people. These are moments when I really feel most like a priest.
Being a priest isn’t easy, and anyone who wants an easy life has no business becoming a priest. But it’s a wonderful life, full of challenges and grace and miracles and above all, full of Jesus Christ, who I get to walk with and accompany as he does his work in the world.