The priest I need

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

This is the time of year official appointments of pastors and parochial vicars are announced in the Archdiocese of Denver. Expectations are high. Each person has their own ideal of what kind of pastor they want in their parish: “I like him,” “I don’t like him,” “he’s not like the last one,” “the last one was great…” And each person has their own ideal of what kind of pastor their parish needs.

With many expectations, we often await a new priest that preaches like St. Paul, that is entertaining, that knows how to relate to people, that makes miracles with the collection funds, that keeps everything clean and in order, that is always around for when he’s needed, that never gets mad, that is always joyful, that never gets sick, that is a tamer of teenagers…the list can go on.

Yet in reality, the only thing that matters, the only thing that is truly needed, is that he be a holy priest: a priest that we see is in love with Christ when he speaks; that celebrates the sacraments with faith and unction; that teaches us to pray and live a love relationship with God and with our neighbor, and that treats everyone with the same love of God.

A holy priest is a gift from heaven we must ask for. It’s something that can’t be made here on earth or that comes from the human nature of the man called by God to this vocation. Holiness is always a gift from God. Thus, a well-known Spanish prayer for priests ends by saying, “Oh Lord! Send holy and fervent priests to your Church!”

The Church observes the yearly World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this year celebrated on June 8.

I think many can concur with the words of the famous film director and actor Mark Wahlberg: “I was married by a priest. My children were baptized by a priest. And whenever somebody in my family passed away, they’ve all been buried by a priest. My sins have been forgiven when I go to confession to a priest. Every time I go to Mass, it’s through a priest’s hands that I receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which strengthens me to share my Catholic faith with others.”

I ask that you raise a small prayer for your parish priest and all the priests of the archdiocese this June 8 — ask nothing for them except holiness.

COMING UP: Read Archbishop Aquila’s letter in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The following letter written by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was read at all weekend Masses Aug. 17-18.

18 August 2018

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you today with great sadness to respond to yet another scandal that has shaken the Church. Even though many of the details in the Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania had already been reported, the full release was still undeniably shocking and its contents devasting to read. We face the undeniable fact that the Church has gone through a dark and shameful time, and while a clear majority of the Report addresses incidents occurring 20+ years in the past, we know that sin has a lasting impact and amends need to be made.

Many children have suffered from cruel behavior for which they bore no responsibility. I offer my apology for any way that the Church, its cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, or laity have failed to live up to Jesus’ call to holiness. I especially offer this apology to the survivors, for the past abuses and for those who knowingly allowed the abuse to occur. I also apologize to the clergy who have been faithful and are deeply discouraged by these reports.

Everyone has the right to experience the natural feelings of grief as they react to this trauma – shock; denial; anger; bargaining; and depression. I want you to know I feel those emotions as well – especially anger. I believe the best way to recover is a return to God’s plan for human sexuality. In response to the Archbishop McCarrick revelations, I have written at length about the spiritual battle we are facing. That letter can be found on the archdiocese’s home page – archden.org.

I ask everyone to pray for the Church in Pennsylvania, though these dioceses over the last 20 years have greatly evolved from how they are described in the Grand Jury Report, the Church must face its past sins with great patience, responsibility, repentance and conversion.

Creating an environment where children are safe from abuse remains a top priority in the Archdiocese of Denver. In our archdiocese, we require background checks and Safe Environment Training for all priests, deacons, employees, and any volunteers who are around children. During this training, everyone is taught their role as a mandatory reporter, and what steps to follow if they witness or even suspect abuse. We also require instruction for children and young people, where they are taught about safe and appropriate boundaries, and to tell a trusted adult if they ever feel uncomfortable. We participate in regular independent audits of our practices, and we have been found in compliance every year since the national audit began in 2003.

Finally, while we have made strides to improve our Archdiocese, I am aware that the wounds of past transgressions remain. We are committed to helping victims of abuse and we are willing to meet with anyone who believes they have been mistreated.

I urge all of us to pray for holiness, for the virtues, and for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Only he and he alone can heal us, forgive us, and bring us to the Father. Be assured of my prayers for all of you and most especially the victims of any type of sexual abuse committed by anyone.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila