Traditionally, the last Sunday of September is recognized as “Priesthood Sunday” in parishes throughout the United States.
This celebratory day was organized by the US Council of Serra International. Serra USA is a Catholic lay organization that promotes and affirms vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life in the Church. Priesthood Sunday is an opportunity to pray for, thank, and honor our priests who serve us in the name of Christ every day in our parishes.
Over the last few decades, vocations to the priesthood have declined, requiring many priests to assume additional responsibilities such as serving beyond retirement age or staffing large parishes alone. According to a recent report on
“The State of Priestly Vocations in the United States” by Vocation Ministry, (vocationministry.com) an active diocesan priest serves an average of 3,683 Catholics in a parish. While the needs of parishioners vary, the mission of every priest is to lead his people into an abiding relationship with God. The last three popes have called for priests to be “experts in the spiritual life” and “master teachers of prayer.”
Authentic pastoral ministry comes from the fruit of our priests’ ongoing conversion and prayer life which they witness to others. As this present culture attacks Christian values and beliefs, it is even more necessary to strongly root the laity in their identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters and reminding them that they are called to live in the security of God’s love and truth. In such a critical battle, efficient and productive priests are not enough.
We need holy priests whose presence and ministry answers our desire, “We want to see Jesus” (Jn. 12:20).
The holiness of a priest will shine like a city on a hill and be an instrument of God’s grace to those whom he serves. Furthermore, the holiness of the laity striving to be Christ’s witnesses in the world, are a sign of hope and encouragement for our priests. All people, in all states of life and vocations, are called to holiness and we need each other to answer this call. Holiness is our total response of love to God’s infinite love and loving our fellow brothers and sisters in this world.
As we recognize Priesthood Sunday, thank the priests in your life for their dedication and promise that you will pray for them. Consider not only praying for your parish priests, but also for all the priests from whom you have received your sacraments throughout your life. Vianney Vocations, a company that markets promotional vocation materials for priestly and religious vocations, offers this idea with a prayer card for “A Rosary for Priests.” The first decade is offered for the priest who baptized you, the second decade is for the priest who gave you first holy communion, the third decade is for the bishop who confirmed you, the fourth one is for the priest who witnessed your marriage or religious vows, and the fifth decade is for the priest who will give you the anointing of the sick.
St. Therese of Lisieux, who dedicated her life to the Lord and offered herself for the holiness of priests, composed this beautiful prayer for us to follow:
O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for your lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in Purgatory. But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who’ve absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I’ve assisted and who’ve given me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who’ve taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way, especially O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen