Diocesan News

Diocese’s Priests Hear Call to Reject Mediocrity

(Photos: Ed Wilkinson)

Priests must reject mediocrity in their ministry and penetrate modern-day culture with the culture of the Church.

That was the message of Rockville Centre Bishop John O. Barres when he delivered the keynote address at the Brooklyn diocesan convocation of priests.

Addressing the spirit of secularism in today’s world, Bishop Barres said, “You and I can go off in the corner and dissect the problem to death and roll over, or you and I can take the paths of the saints of history who went into the work of history and stepped up to combat a true cultural need.”

He said that the truths of the Catholic faith cannot be allowed to go underground and be hidden from view. Instead, they must be brought to the surface and preached to the people of the 21st century, who have turned away from the practice of traditional religion.

“There’s a deep part of us that doesn’t believe this culture can be penetrated,” he said.

Instead, he told the priests to believe in the parable of the mustard seed, in which the planter sows the seed in the ground, cultivates it and allows the Creator to bring about new life.

Invoking the Miracle Mets of 1969 who rallied around the slogan, “You Gotta Believe,” he said, “We’ve got so much more reason to say we’ve got to believe because we’ve got the Holy Spirit on our bench.”

Bishop Barres spoke to about 300 priests of Brooklyn and Queens who attended the three-day conference. Half attended Monday to Wednesday and the other half were present from Wednesday to Friday. Everyone attended the Wednesday afternoon sessions with Bishop Barres and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.

The away convocation is held every three years to supplement the annual yearly priests’ conference in Douglaston.

The theme of the meeting was Preaching Christ to a Pluralistic Society. Over the three days, the priests also heard talks on different aspects of preaching by Father Peter Cameron, O.P., Dr. Carolyn Yeagar, Father Patrick Griffin, C.M., Dr. Andrew Kelly, and Father Richard Veras.

Bishop Barres explained to the priests that their interior spiritual lives will dictate how effective their preaching will be.

He told the men that “Pope Francis is “waging war on mediocrity in the priesthood and the episcopacy” and ushering in “a new moment of a deeper sharing of the Spirit and sincerity with our brokenness.”

He asked the priests to “rekindle our amazement with the Eucharist” and “to go to the Eucharist in order to connect our preaching to a pluralistic society.”

Finally, Bishop Barres said that Pope Francis stresses that preaching is dialogical, meaning that it is part of a dialogue that leads to a personal confrontation with the Gospel.

“We preach from the heart of the Church, with an ear towards our people, and our hearts on fire,” he said.

Father Joseph Fonti, director of the Office of Priestly Ministry that directs the convocation, said the time was designed to “to bring us together for prayer, reflection, but also for fraternal support, renewal of friendship, and awareness of one another’s presence.”

“It also allows us to minister to each other. And it’s a chance to enjoy one another’s company.

“It also helps us to understand the complexities that are ours in carrying the Good News to our people. How does that affect us as preachers? How do we allow the message to speak to us before we share it in our preaching to a people that is diverse, that is going through different experiences, trying to stay true to the faith, trying to be faithful to the Word of God.”

One hundred and sixty-five priests were registered for the first part of the week with another 130 attending the end of the week.

Related: Editor’s Space “Despite Gloomy Stats, Bishop Bolsters Spirit of the Clergy”