Catholics will honor priests in nationwide event Oct. 26, 2008

On Sunday, Oct. 26, Catholic parishes throughout the United States will show support for their priests with prayer, celebration and dialogue.

The last Sunday of October is designated annually as Priesthood Sunday (also known as World Priest Day), a one-day celebration of the priesthood organized by parish lay leaders and coordinated by the USA Council of Serra International.

Priesthood Sunday was established by the National Federation of Priests’ Councils in 2003 to provide a way for Catholic communities to express appreciation for devoted priests who serve them so faithfully. Such a celebration is increasingly relevant in light of the declining number of priests in the United States. Only about 4,000 of the 19,000 parishes in this country currently have more than one priest. Many priests serve two or more parishes by themselves. Clearly, there is a great need for a show of love and support for the priesthood.

The Serra Club of Boston is encouraging the lay faithful of each parish, school or other ministry to develop its own special way of marking the day and honoring both the priesthood and its own priests. Special liturgies, Priesthood Sunday celebrations and the opening of a dialogue between priests and parishioners are recommended.

For more information about how people can participate in Priesthood Sunday, all are invited to visit www.priestsunday.org and wpd.wwme.org for many ideas on suggested liturgies, social celebrations, activities, reflections, and downloadable graphics, guides and posters. A complete downloadable 2008 Celebration Starter Kit can be found at these Web sites. Requests for printed material may be directed to the national office of Serra USA in Chicago at 888-777-6681.

Suggested activities that have been used to affirm and celebrate priests:

Plan a liturgy and include petitions for your priests during the Prayer of the Faithful.

Recite the World Priest Day Prayer as a Communion meditation at all weekend liturgies.

Incorporate your priest’s favorite hymn(s) into the liturgy for all weekend Masses.

Send cards/balloons/flowers/cookies/goodie baskets to your parish priest or bishop, telling them what their priesthood/leadership/friendship means to you.

Invite a priest or seminarian to a meal hosted by your parish, group or community.

Remember those particular priests who have ministered to you in the past and send a note/make a phone call/contact them and let them know of your gratitude.

Introduce yourself and family to your priest or bishop whom you have not met personally, either in person or by mail.

Take time before or after the weekend liturgies to recognize and appreciate your pastor and priests.

Compliment your priests as often as possible.

Get Catholic schools or religious education classes to participate in a poster or essay contest about what the priesthood means to them or involve them in writing notes/drawing pictures for the pastor/priests stationed at their parish; have them make special homemade gifts for their priests.

Conduct an all-night eucharistic vigil for the health, welfare and spiritual growth of all priests.

Solicit prayer/spiritual bouquets from parishioners and present them to the clergy.

Organize a parish potluck supper to celebrate “Father’s Day.”

Hold a coffee cake/donuts/pastry reception “honoring Father” following the Masses that weekend.

Create a banner to be displayed in front of the church.

Publish an open letter of appreciation for the pastor/priests in the parish bulletin.

Design and distribute bookmarks/prayer cards with names of parish priests on one side and a prayer for priests on the other.

Place a special tribute ad in The Pilot recognizing your pastor/priest(s).

Publish a special bulletin insert including your pastor/priest(s) photos and biographies.

Distribute the 24-hour “prayer petitions for priests” (available online) to parishioners and ask them to participate as fully as possible during the weekend.

Encourage the use of “Pray for Our Priests” car magnets (available from Serra Boston).

“Affirming, supporting and encouraging our priests are some of the most important things that we can do as Serrans,” said Brian and Loretta Gallagher, co-presidents of the local Serra Club of Boston.

“Too often the media generate negative attention with regard to the Catholic priesthood. Priesthood Sunday is a great opportunity for Catholic parishioners to do something positive by thanking, affirming and sharing their love and support for the men who commit their lives to the Lord and his Church via the sacrament of holy orders. We hope many parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston will participate in this unique occasion for reaching out to our beloved priests, and that Priesthood Sunday will become an annual event.”

Serra International is a worldwide Catholic organization of lay men and women dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The USA Council is comprised of more than 12,000 members in more than 300 active clubs throughout the United States.

Locally, the Serra Club of Boston meets every third Saturday of the month at St. Mary Parish in Waltham. Father Daniel Hennessey, vocations director for the archdiocese, serves as club chaplain, celebrating Mass at each meeting. For more information on how to join Serra Boston, visit the web site at www.serraboston.org or call 978-462-1057.

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