Nov. 4, 2015
By Father William Muench
Today, I begin by adding my appreciation to Bishop LaValley and all of my brother priests here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg for this Priest’s Appreciation Issue.
I have been blessed to have served so many years side by side with these priests. I know only too well how dedicated they all are; I know well how you, the people of this diocese, appreciate the dedication of the priests of our diocese. These priests truly serve in the Spirit of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I know how blessed I am to be called to be a priest of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus chose me and has worked through me in my ministry. I owe so much to the action of the Lord in my life and priesthood. When I am appreciated by people, I know they are recognizing God’s great gifts to me.
I am certain you are aware of what priesthood means to me and all priests. We have been given the eternal privilege of celebrating the sacraments of our Catholic Church. In this way, God chose us to bring the presence and love of Jesus to all God’s people.
God has given us innumerable opportunities to flood this world with the love and peace of the Lord. God choose us to make certain that people realize the great unconditional love of the Lord for all people. God proves that great love by sending Jesus to our world to live among us, to show us the way, and also to suffer and die for us – and to lead us to new life through his Resurrection.
As a priest, I thank God for the unique opportunity of celebrating the Blessed Eucharist in each and every Mass. This is the very heart of my ministry – and the Eucharist constantly gives me a power, the power of the Lord that brings strength and love to my ministry. In addition, I have grown to recognize the opportunities of bringing the message of the Lord, Jesus, through preaching the Word of God.
I have learned so much about preaching from my days in Wadhams Hall in Monsignor Bailey’s speaking class and my opportunities to observe many great preachers in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
Let me share with you a rather challenging bit of advice that I learned about preaching. I was attending a conference as a young priest at a conference on preaching. That day I heard several talks about how badly priests preach from speakers that were priests themselves. Then there was a talk by Catherine Doherty, the founder of Madonna House, that put a very challenging slant on the question of preaching and gave to me a new confidence.
She said this, speaking as a lay person: “What do we hunger for? Explanations of the theological or doctrinal matters or the Catechism? NO. We hunger to be taught, to be led and to be healed by the Word of God by love. Teach us how to love. Teach us true knowledge, teach us how to pray. Do not satisfy just our intellects. Teach us not only about God but how to know God Himself.”
That day I learned so much more from Catherine Doherty. It certainly meant so much to me and gave me the hope to be a good priest and preacher. This is something else she has written: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t seek your identity. You have it. You are a man touched by God, and we the laity know it. We love you, even if some are hostile to you because they think that certain of you have let us down. But don’t be afraid. You have been touched by God, and so it is not you who speaks, but he. Let us hear his voice and, because you allowed him to speak through you, we shall know him.”
I have been truly fortunate in my priesthood. Deeply dedicated priests were my guides from the time I was in the seminary. And they challenged me to bring the Lord’s Spirit and power into my ministry.I was carefully formed by good pastors and also found friendship and support from numerous families in the parishes I served. I have been so blessed by the many good lay people who have encouraged me who have appreciated me. There has also been the challenge and guidance given to me from my heroes; the saints who have shown me the way – like Catherine Doherty.