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Father Muench Says...

Appreciating our priests

Sept. 28, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

It’s the North Country Catholic’s annual Priest Appreciation celebration. I begin today by sending my own gratitude and appreciation, first to our bishop, Bishop Terry LaValley, and to all our priests. I have a unique opportunity through this space to share a few words of appreciation.

First, I would like to offer my gratitude and appreciation to Bishop LaValley. Bishop LaValley accepted this huge challenge of being our bishop 12 years ago. He has been an exceptional guide and leader for our diocese. His dedication to the people of the North Country is well known to all of us. I am truly grateful to his leadership as our bishop.

I would now like to also send my gratitude and appreciation to all the priests of our diocese; yes, to them all. I know them all. We, priests, have a strong community and bond of friendship. I am constantly impressed with our priests; they are truly dedicated. In addition, I am truly impressed with our young priests; they bring a unique enthusiasm to their ministry for our Catholic Church and our diocese.

I would like to add one more thing here: while this day of appreciation is for priests, this gives me an opportunity to add here my gratitude and appreciation to the many religious sisters and the laity, the lay women and men, who work with dedication in the Chancery of the diocese and in the parishes, the many parishes throughout our diocese. I am truly impressed with their dedication to the people of their parish and the people of our diocese.

I noticed that this week the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Matthew. Matthew was chosen by Jesus to be one of the original twelve apostles. Matthew’s story is rather fascinating. We are told in Matthew’s Gospel that Matthew was a tax collector. In the time of Jesus, the country of Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Romans chose several Jews to work for them in collecting taxed from the ordinary Jews. Obviously, these tax collectors were considered as not good by the Jewish community. It is said that many of these tax collectors cheated also. Yet, somehow, Matthew knew Jesus and his teachings and his works. Matthew seems to have found peace and happiness in the message of Jesus; he was truly attracted to following Jesus. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that one day while he, Matthew, was sitting at the customs post, Jesus came along and simply said to him, “follow me.” Matthew got up and followed Jesus.

This story of Matthew was of interest to me because it is rather like my own story. When I was in high school, in many unique ways, Jesus reached out to me and challenged me to “follow him.” I suspect that I was much like Matthew; I really did not understand exactly what this meant, what my life would be like if I followed Jesus and became a priest. I am still learning.

We do know that Matthew’s following of Jesus meant that he would become an Evangelist and write a Gospel telling people of all times the story of Jesus and his message. Matthew’s Gospel goes on to tell us that the same day Jesus had a meal at Matthew’s table and there were many tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees complained to some of Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus answers them with an idea we have heard before from Jesus, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

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