Priests honor peers at chrism Mass luncheon

Seminarian Eric Bennett helps distribute oil of the sick to be used in local parishes following the Archdiocese of Boston’s chrism Mass April 3. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

BRIGHTON -- Msgr. Paul Moritz and Father James Ronan received large wooden crucifixes in honor of their years of priestly service April 3 during a luncheon at St. John’s Seminary.

As is the tradition in Boston, two priests, selected by their peers, are honored at the luncheon following the chrism Mass. Priests and deacons also fill vessels with the consecrated oils for use in their parishes at the seminary after the Mass.

Msgr. Paul Moritz, a retired priest in residence at Regina Cleri, was ordained in 1941. He has been a priest for nearly 66 of his 96 years.

“I really enjoyed my priesthood to the utmost,” he said, addressing the others gathered. “My priesthood has been my great gift from God.”

Msgr. Moritz was born in Dorchester and after ordination served in Brighton, Waltham, West Lynn, Canton, Cambridge and Cathedral High School in Boston. He also served for many years at St. Ann Parish in Peabody. He was set to retire for the first time in 1986 but continued to serve the archdiocese for two more decades. During that time he was stationed at several parishes and served as the vicar of Brockton and interim regional vicar for the Merrimack Region. He continues to celebrate Mass at area parishes.

Msgr. Moritz said he was glad to have the opportunity to touch the lives of people in a pastoral way. Priests will never know how many people they help through their encouragement and example, he said.

“As long as you’re giving yourself in God’s name, it’s positive,” he said. “I wouldn’t change my 65 years for any other vocation.”

Father William Kelly, director of the archdiocese’s Office for Clergy Support and Ongoing Formation, said “This is a man who was shaped by his priesthood.”

Father Kelly also presented a crucifix to Father James Ronan, pastor at St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown.

Father Ronan was born in Dorchester and ordained in 1982. He served at Immaculate Conception in Malden and spent six years serving with the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle in Ecuador. The St. James Society was founded 49 years ago by Cardinal Richard Cushing in response to Pope John XXIII calling priests and religious from North America to aid the faithful of South America. He was executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s office of the Church in Latin America. He then served in parishes in Lawrence during reconfiguration.

Father Ronan said his experience in Ecuador was very different from his experience with reconfiguration in Boston. In Latin America, the Church is young and vibrant, and new churches are being built, he said.

In Boston, Father Ronan has faced new challenges, and said he has learned to let the Holy Spirit do the work, he said.

“The bigger the challenges are, the more they seem to fall away when I get out of the way,” he said.

“It’s not possible for me to adequately express the joy that I know as being a parish priest in Boston. I love the ministry,” he added.

Father Kelly described Father Ronan as “very well known and respected for his intelligence, his vision and for his readiness to meet the needs at hand with a generous spirit.”

Both of the honoree’s comments were followed by standing ovations.

Father Kelly added that it is fitting to hold the chrism Mass luncheon at St. John’s Seminary, where many archdiocesan priests studied for their vocation.

“So many of us came to understand our call to the priesthood in a significant way while we were here,” he said.

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