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Archives World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests
Like Christ ‘in service and love’

June 5, 2024

By Sister Mary Eamon Lyng, SSJ
Diocesan Vocations Coordinator

“A good vocation is simply a firm and constant will in which the called person has to serve God in the way and in the place God has called.” – St. Francis de Sales in “Introduction to the Devout Life”

Jesus Christ the Priest, par excellence, is the one who is the source of love for all people. This love was expressed in His healing the sick, teaching the crowds the way of love, preaching compassion and forgiveness, raising the dead to life and being present in the villages making friends and eating with them.

At the Last Supper, Jesus’ act of love of breaking the bread and drinking of the cup to be consummated on the cross, was given to the Apostles when He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” After His death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles bringing His Peace and promising the Holy Spirit said, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; whose sins you retain, they are retained.” With the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the ministry of priesthood began in the life of the Church.

On the Feast of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, June 7, we pray for the sanctification of priests on this World Day for Priests. We pray for all priests who are the “bridge builders” between God and his people.

The priest is an effective symbol of Christ. He represents Christ to the community by what he does and through his presence. But the priest also “presents” the community to Christ and is therefore a representation of his people: their wants, sufferings, needs, and desires. The call of being a priest is a response to the call to be “the persona of Christ,” that is, being one with Christ, to be like him in service and love for others. He, in the person of Christ, “effects the eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people” (Lumen Gentium #10).

How blessed we are in the Diocese of Ogdensburg of the priests who love and serve the people of the North Country. We are blessed with faithful retired priests who continue to serve in parishes, visiting the sick, celebrating the Eucharist, baptizing and forgiving sins. Priests love their vocation because they have come to know Christ the priest whom they imitate.

Father James Shurtleff, a retired priest from the parishes of St. Mary’s Cathedral and Notre Dame, shares with us his call to priesthood:

“What got me thinking about the possibility of a religious vocation several things come to mind. First is God’s universal call to holiness and a desire to do what God was calling me to do, to please God, and to serve God. What influenced this way of thinking…this thought and question…was…the goodness of my parents, grandparents and family, and the example, in grade school and in high school. The lives of the saints also made a big impression on me as a young person. This discernment process was not an overnight decision. All through the years in the seminary I continued to ask myself whether or not God was call me to the priesthood. The good example of my fellow seminarians inspired me. And so I was ordained on December 17, 1966. After ordination the example and holiness of the priests I came into contact with encouraged me to persevere in the priesthood. God has bless me with a wonderful, happy and fulfilling life, first as a seminarian, then as a priest in my ministry and now as a retired priest. I thank God for His gift.”

Father Matt Conger, Parochial Vicar, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Watertown was inspired by Father Shurtleff’s life and witness as a priest. It was his example and love for priesthood that inspired Father Matt to enter the seminary, discerned his vocation throughout his seminary days, and finally responded to the call of priesthood on May 29, 2021.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg has celebrated the ordination of two new priests, Father Douglas Schirmer and Father Carter Pierce. The Catholic Community of Ogdensburg continues to pray for these priests, for the seminarians in their priestly formation for the Church, and for more vocations to the priesthood.

Let us pray for our bishop and all the priests of the Diocese as they continue to serve and to pray for their parishioners and families. On this Feast of the Most Sacred Heart, offer a special thank you to your priests in your parish for the ministry they do. Pray that they may be strengthened and renewed each day as they serve as a priest of Jesus Christ.

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