St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, is depicted in a stained glass window of the Regina Cleri Residence for retired priests in Boston. Numerous local events will mark the Year for Priests which begins on June 19, the 150th anniversary of the saint’s death. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy
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BRAINTREE -- The heart of the patron saint of priests will travel to Rome for the opening of the Year for Priests on June 19, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here in the archdiocese, a prayer service and events throughout the year will mark this as a time to consider the importance of the priesthood.
The incorrupt heart of the Cure d’ Ars, St. John Marie Vianney, traveled to the Archdiocese of Boston in October 2006, and over 7,000 Catholics venerated the relic. At the time, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said the holy priest’s heart is a symbol of his pastoral love, and the cardinal encouraged all to pray for vocations to the priesthood.
Father Daniel Hennessey, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, said that the example set by priests leads young men to that vocation.
“Good and holy priests attract good and holy men to the priesthood,” he said.
Father Hennessey added that St. John Vianney serves as a model for all priests. He had a great love for the people of God, desired to preach the Gospel in and out of season and ministered with mercy in the confessional. His example shows that the vocation of the priesthood is both “indispensable and irreplaceable,” he said.
In announcing the year declared by Pope Benedict, the Congregation for the Clergy said that priests are important for who they are in addition to what they do. The overwhelming majority of priests have great personal integrity and invest their entire existence in the fulfillment of their vocation.
The Church must communicate to its priests that “she is proud of her priests, loves them, honors them, admires them, and that she recognizes with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of their life,” the congregation added.
Cardinal O’Malley echoed these words in a letter about the year, writing “It is my hope that this coming year will be an occasion for intense appreciation of the priestly identity.”
In the archdiocese, the Year for Priests will begin with a prayer service and consecration of priests at Sacred Heart Parish in East Boston on June 19.
Annual events like the St. John’s Seminary Vianney Cook-Out on Aug. 12 and Chrism Mass on April 6, 2010 will receive special emphasis.
The commemoration will include new events like a priest appreciation day, conference on celibacy, remembrance liturgy for all deceased priests and a convocation for priests with Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York on June 9, 2010.
On Wednesday evenings during the seasons of Advent and Lent, confession will be available at every worship site in the archdiocese.
The Vocations Office is also designating six locations around the archdiocese for the intentions of the sanctification of priests and of priestly vocations in the archdiocese. The faithful are invited to attend adoration at these worship sites -- Holy Ghost Parish in Whitman, St. Clements Eucharistic Shrine in Boston, St. Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly, St. Michael Parish in North Andover, St. Patrick Parish in Natick and St. William Parish in Tewksbury.
Local priests will travel for the international priests’ retreat in Ars, France in September and for the World Meeting of Priests in Rome, which will close the year on June 19, 2010.
Father Hennessey said the year is an opportunity for individual priests to reflect on the responsibilities of the priesthood and strive for the moral perfection the Holy Father called them to.
He stressed that it is also a time for the entire Church to examine the priestly vocation.
“Christ reveals to us the mystery of our own lives,” he said. “This year is a great opportunity to ask Him to reveal to us the mystery of this beautiful vocation.”