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Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Papal Visit 2008: Local Priests Express Excitement Over Pope's Visit"

From New York 1
by Elizabeth Kaledin
April 05, 2008

Thirteen years after two Catholic priests first appeared on NY1, they returned this week to share their thoughts on the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI and their meeting with the former pontiff. NY1's Elizabeth Kaledin filed the following report.

Father John Cush and Father Bryan Patterson have taken a long journey together. NY1 first met them 13 years ago in Rome, where they were both studying to be priests at the North American Pontifical College, a renowned seminary just outside Vatican City.

"Working with people in their daily lives gave me the sense of what God is calling me to do," said Patterson in 1995.

"I think that this is the best way for me to serve God at this point in time in my life and I feel called to be one day, God willing, as a priest," said Cush.

After becoming ordained ministers, the two settled down back in the city, with Patterson a priest in Brooklyn, and Father Cush teaching at this high school seminary in Elmhurst, Queens.

Both say they are thrilled about the impending visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

"His coming is going to be a blessing to New York and the country just because he is the pope," said Patterson.

Patterson and Cush have a unique perspective because they've met both Benedict XVI and his popular predecessor John Paul II.

"I wouldn't say that John Paul II is better than Benedict XVI, it's just that he caught me on a human level," said Patterson of Paul II. "I had never met anyone so real, so alive, so focused."

While both agree John Paul had a profound ability to touch people and raise spirits, they disagree with criticism that Pope Benedict is dry and more remote. They prefer to see him as a great intellectual.

"Pope Benedict is a theologian and he's much more focused in on creed," explained Cush. "He's much more focused in on morality, perhaps than even John Paul II."

Father Cush has long been an admirer of Pope Benedict's scholarly side, and once actually bumped into him while buying a book about his theology. The then-cardinal autographed the book.

Like many leaders of the Catholic Church, Cush and Patterson are concerned about the church's reputation and the shortage of young men joining the priesthood. Now is an opportunity to turn things around, they say.

"People are saying that this is the worst time to have ever been a Catholic priest," said Cush. "This is not the worst time. This is the best time, because right now the heroism of the lifestyle of the Catholic priest has to be seen."

The two men say they hope the pope's visit can inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

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