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Monday, June 22, 2009

"Priesthood is 'an enormous gift', says cardinal"

From NZ Catholic :

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- "Priesthood is such an enormous gift and we need to rejoice in it every day and renew it every day," said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick on June 19.
"There is no sacrament, I think, more filled with love as the sacrament we took when we became priests," the retired archbishop of Washington said in his homily during a special Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to mark the beginning of the Year for Priests.

Pope Benedict XVI announced the church's yearlong focus in March in an effort to further appreciation and support for priests around the world.

Lasting almost 80 minutes, the Mass at the shrine in Washington was planned to occur simultaneously with a Mass Pope Benedict XVI celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome to open the year.

Thirty-one priests concelebrated the Mass with Cardinal McCarrick at the shrine.

In his homily the cardinal stressed the importance of keeping a constant focus on love of God's gifts to his believers and maintaining a steadfast interest in self-improvement.

"Priesthood is in all of us whether we are ordained into the priesthood or have been baptized into it," Cardinal McCarrick said.

After a request for continued and increased prayers for priests over the coming year, the congregation filled the basilica's Crypt Church with enthusiastic applause. Almost 400 worshippers participated in saying a special prayer for priests at the conclusion of the Mass.

For Cardinal McCarrick there is nothing new in striving for self-improvement. "I hope I will learn to pray better and be kinder but you have that every day anyway, there's nothing new in that," he added.

He said he hopes all priests will take this year to learn the value and the gift of being a good priest.

One priest, Father James Steffes, took the service and homily to heart, literally. He told Catholic News Service this will be a year for him to become "a perfect lover of God" and of others.

Father Steffes is executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

The priest said he is encouraged by the purpose of the year and by the Mass.

He said he will use this year to continue to "celebrate the life that God has chosen for me and respond to his call to be a lover."

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