My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Jubilees in religious and priestly life mark significant milestones that certainly need to be celebrated. This year because of the coronavirus, unfortunately, our celebrations have been personal and rather muted. In the Fall, however, we hope that we can celebrate our jubilees as priests, religious sisters, and brothers in a more formal way. I, myself, hope to be able to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of priestly ministry. We do not know the future, however, or how this coronavirus might come back to haunt us yet again.
Today, as we mark most of our jubilee days, we reflect on the commitment that has been made and kept for so many years. I would pose a series of questions for myself and my fellow jubilarians regarding what exactly our religious life and our commitment are all about.
First, how and why did we make the commitment? Have our reasons changed for having entered the service of God in priesthood or religious life? And have our motives matured? Do we see things differently today, perhaps more clearly than at the beginning of our ministry? For example, the priesthood that emerged from the Second Vatican Council is different than what it is today. And so, it is with religious life where the apostolates of one time have given way to different types of service. Constant change is part of human nature and also has become part and parcel of the life of the Church.
Another question perhaps that we can meditate on is why we maintained our commitments. What were my personal reasons? What struggles did I have? Perhaps, most importantly, how did the grace of perseverance come to me? Who assisted me along the way? And why have I kept this commitment for so long? Perhaps we experienced the thought of giving up our commitment. Why did the thought enter my life? Was that thought a mere temptation, or an opportunity to recommit myself with even greater fervor to the commitment once made?
I think jubilee time is a time for reflection and celebration, and a time for gratefulness, gratefulness not only for our priests and religious sisters and brothers but also for our laity. For it is you, the laity, who we serve, and you who support us in the vocation that we follow in Christ’s Church for your benefit. Unfortunately, today we still lack the vocations we need to adequately serve our faithful here in the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. We may never have the number of priests and religious that we had in the past, however, we still are in need of an adequate number of priests and religious to maintain the life of the Church.
This is especially needed in the celebration of the sacraments and also the mirroring of the Church, which is both male and female. New ministries have developed out of the Permanent Diaconate. We see how this has helped the life of the Church. We must recognize, however, that it is our responsibility to pray for vocations and to support vocations as we see them growing in the life of those who are called by Christ. We can never give a vocation, but we can certainly pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He gives us the vocations that we need to reap the harvest that He has sown.
Join me as we all put out into the deep of many more years of service. For those of us who know that it is the fourth quarter, we might say it is the end time of when we sum up our years of commitment and can recognize the graces that we have received from the Lord for 25, 50, 60 or who knows how many more years. I do believe that most of the time, when we get to this point in our lives, we say, “I do not know where the time has gone so fast, my whole life is mostly behind me!”
And what can we say? We can say nothing but thank God! Thank You for my vocation. Thank You for the opportunity to serve You and to serve my sisters and brothers in the life of the Church. Continue, we say, and we pray together, for that grace of perseverance that our commitment will bring us the happiness that God wants for each one of us.