Beginning, looking back, and celebrating

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If this special Spring Vocation Section is any indication, the genuine affection of the Roman Catholic faithful for their priests continues to be very strong and very public.

The five new priests of our archdiocese are the primary focus of this special section. Right from the cover and throughout, you get to see them and meet them and, I hope, know a bit about them as men and as your priests.

During the past several years, that number depends on when they began priestly formation. As you can see from their biographies, they have been involved in an intensive process of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. At various stages of their formation, one or another of those dimensions was emphasized or became a particular focus without losing sight of the others.

In this, they have been assisted by their seminary formators, often called faculty, but that has an enduring academic or intellectual bent to it, and formators better tell us what those entrusted with their seminary preparation have been doing for our five new priests. The formators themselves, be they women and men -- laity or religious, deacons or priests, or parishioners -- are also working on those four "pillars" in their own lives.

The formation of priests is both complex and extensive. In fact, the whole formation program, that is what the Church is expecting our seminaries to offer so that we have well-formed priests, is spelled out in a document readily available to all. It is not light reading and certainly not beach reading, but if you are interested check it out at

The priests who are celebrating golden and silver -- 50th and 25th -- anniversaries remind us to look back. Perhaps with a bit of nostalgia, but also with a bit of pride in the service they have given to us, the People of God. While most of their priestly lives have been in parishes, some also served in seminary formation, in the central ministries of the archdiocese, in campus ministries, and in missionary service. The formation referenced above is usually called "initial" formation. The jubilarians would remind us that they are still being shaped and formed by their prayer and our prayer for them; by their attention to keeping up changes in the Church's life; and by shifting needs of the people they serve.

As we look back with the jubilarians and forward with the newly ordained, it might be good to take a quick look at the phrase "People of God." At ordination, both, those being ordained and those in the assembly, are reminded that these particular men are chosen from among the People of God and designated as servants of that same People. The ordained remain members of the People of God.

People of God is NOT a synonym for the lay faithful, it is an image of the Church -- all of us -- the lay faithful: women, men, children, young and old; consecrated women and men in various institutes of common prayer, service, and life; and those ordained bishops, priests (presbyters), and deacons. What the People of God have in common is Holy Baptism. Other differences or distinctions may come along: confirmation and Eucharist; and for many matrimony; for others, religious profession; and for still other men, ordination. Additionally, we are a pilgrim People of God. From the moment of baptism, we are set on our way to that common goal, which we celebrate in the Easter season.

This Special quite clearly also celebrates vocations. While the emphasis in this section is on the ordained, we have reminders about lay people involved in service and evangelization, and religious serving needs of those on the peripheries.

Celebrations are important as they mark milestones, accomplishments, and goals that have been met. In the case of those called to serve this cannot mean resting on laurels no matter how well earned and deserved.

For the newly ordained and for the jubilarians celebrations will emphasize not a status achieved but a life given to and for others. What will really be celebrated is God who called them in Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit is acting through them, for us.

To our much needed newly ordained priests a hearty welcome to priestly ministry and life. To the golden and silver jubilarians, thanks for your years of selfless service to us here in Boston and in many other places. What is true of all of us chosen in baptism is true also of you: you are necessary, called, and sent.