Bishop talks about priesthood at Catechetical Institute Day

Concerning catechists
and the priesthood

One of the great events each year, which I cherish, is the meeting of catechists held at Wawasee Middle School at a halfway point between our two major cities. I was asked this year to give the keynote on a subject dear to my heart; namely, the priesthood in honor of the Year for Priests. So there I was, on a lovely November morning heading north on Route 13, hoping to be there by the opening at 8 a.m.

Inside, a new and welcome sight. A large group of people lining up to seek the help of Enid Roman-De Jesus, director of our Ministry to Hispanic Catholics. Enid was giving out earphones for those who needed translation from English into Spanish, since the bishop of the diocese does not yet speak Spanish (one of my three goals after retirement is to learn Spanish). At any rate, what a joy it was that almost half of the 380 people in attendance were from our Spanish speaking parishes. They came from St. John’s, Goshen; St. Vincent’s, Elkhart; St. Patrick, Fort Wayne; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Warsaw, and other parishes.

I began my talk with some words taken from a two-part article that I used years ago in a class I gave at St. John Seminary. It was the time of the hyphenated priest and priestly identity. I found these two articles by Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. He ran an end run around the superficial discussions of the day, and placed the priesthood in the personal call of Jesus Christ to the apostles, which he gave after spending a night in prayer. Here is how Joseph Ratzinger, at that time archbishop of Munich, placed the core of the vocation of the priests.

“Spiritual office in the church rests on the existential posture of the servant who has learned how to allot second place to his own will in favor of the will of the person to whom he belongs.”

This great theologian roots
priesthood in a personal call

I then spoke about the priesthood of Christ, the priesthood as shared in by all the baptized and the role of the ministerial priests. Pope John Paul II says in another place that the whole church needs to have clearly in mind the understanding of the ministerial priesthood. Indeed, the vocation of the laity can only flourish with priests who are fully committed to their own call, and who have heard the call of Christ clearly, and are trying to live it every day.

Our people know this, and I was delighted with their interest in this topic. Later, after a brief question and answer session, I celebrated Mass for almost 400 catechists from all over our diocese.

New pastor for St. Francis
Up again early the next morning, heading west, and stopping first at St. Francis Xavier, Pierceton. It was too long since I had been to this parish, but this was a very joyful day. It was the installation of Father Dale Bauman as pastor of St. Francis Parish. This is a tiny parish, about 120 families, but a place with great joy. I was pleased to hear their gratitude for the 15 years service of Father Bruce Piechocki (I should say Msgr. Piechocki). How delighted they were when I announced at the brunch following the Mass that Bruce Piechocki was now Msgr. Piechocki. I was especially delighted to be reminded that this tiny parish now has a seminarian. Chris Sindelar, whose parents I met, is, I think, the first vocation from St. Francis, Pierceton, in many years, and perhaps the first ever.

What a joyful spirit here. You can see why they love this small parish. Everyone knows each other. Especially heartwarming was to see how delighted they were with their new pastor, Father Dale Bauman. He has been very well received. Father Bauman is pastor of St. Francis, Pierceton, but also an associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

A long day ahead
With my friend, Chris Lapp, in the driver’s seat, we went on to my delightful little apartment among the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, in Mishawaka. But there was work still to do.

I celebrated Sunday evening Mass at 9:15 p.m. at Saint Mary’s College. I used to do a lot of these when I first came to the diocese, at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. Not so many of these late night Sunday Masses now, but this one I never miss. It was a full church, and I was delighted to preach and meet so many of the young women.

Afterwards I had a discussion, a question and answer session with about 30 young women. Excellent questions about women’s role in the church, the teaching of theology, and so much else. The discussion did not end until 11:30 p.m. Two long days, but delightful and joyful. Days like this, and there have been so many, I will always cherish.

Concerning our high schools
A good number of our seminarians and young priests have come out of our four Catholic high schools. It is for this reason that I recently went to each of these schools and spoke with the principal and staff about assigning priests. After consulting with priests who served in our high schools, I was especially anxious that the priests assigned to the high schools not only be available for confessions and Mass, but also teach in the classrooms on a regular basis.

So I am happy to share with you the priests who have received this special mission.

Saint Joseph’s High School — Father Bob Lengerich
Marian High School — Father Jacob Runyon
Bishop Dwenger High School — Father Anthony Steinacker and Father Jason Freiburger
Bishop Luers High School — Father David Ruppert, Father Drew Curry and Father Larry Kramer

With the presence of these priests on a regular basis in each high school, it is my hope that many young men seeing their example, and especially meeting them in the classroom, will consider the priesthood.

The closeness of a priest
Placing these priests in our high schools is not only for the fostering of vocation to the priesthood, but for establishing clearly on this Year for the Priest the beautiful gift of the parish priest and what it means to all our people.

About monsignors and papal knights
Our diocese is very honored by Pope Benedict XVI naming seven priests to be Chaplains to His Holiness, under the title of monsignors.

Of special note is the appointment of the Holy Father of Professor John Cavadini, chair of the theology department at the University of Notre Dame as a Knight of St. Gregory.

As far as I know, this is the first papal knighthood declared in this diocese in many, many years, in fact, it may be the first in the history of the diocese.

It honors Professor Cavadini for his study of Catholic theology, his recruiting of outstanding theologians for the theology faculty at Notre Dame, and his assistance at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a consultant to the Doctrine Committee. John and his wife, Nancy, are members of St. Matthew’s Cathedral Parish in South Bend. They have seven children and two grandchildren. It is my hope and intention that we can have an evening prayer service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, blessing these seven priests and this dedicated theologian.
Such honors bring all of us closer to the Successor of Peter into the universal church.

The sports report
So a reluctant tip of the hat to the New York Yankees who surely are the best team in baseball.

But the final word on another season goes, as it does every year, to A. Bartlett Giamatti. A distinguished scholar of medieval literature, when elected president of Yale, he said, “The only president I wanted to be was president of the American League.” His fitting words follow.

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

See you all next week.

Posted on November 11, 2009, to: