My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Our Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens can truly rejoice with this year’s ordination class of 10 young men. The members of this class come from five continents: North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. They are representatives of the world that we know and were ordained on the day before Pentecost when we are reminded of the true gift of the Holy Spirit – not so much in the ability to speak different languages, but rather to understand them in one common language which is the love of God.
This year’s class is relatively young in comparison to some of our previous ordination years. These men are well prepared and certainly will make all of us in Brooklyn and Queens proud as they labor for the Kingdom in our diocese.
Just last week, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, addressed the assembly of the Congregation for Clergy which is responsible for overseeing the training of priests throughout the world. The Congregation has just promulgated a new document which speaks of integral formation and will be taken to each episcopal conference for adaptation for the local scene.
This document, I am sure, will help us to better form our priests as we have learned over the years working on the document of St. John Paul II, “Pastores Dabo Vobis.” This new document gives an updated review of past methods and indicates ways in which we can further the training of priests. One of the principal recommendations is a pastoral year which would give the seminarians a more complete understanding of the Church that they would serve.
In his unique way, our Holy Father says, “It is necessary to admit that, often, the young are judged in a rather superficial way and are too easily labeled as a ‘liquid’ generation, devoid of passions and ideals. There certainly are fragile, disoriented, fragmented young people or those who are infected with the culture of consumerism and individualism. However, this must not impede us from recognizing that young people are capable of betting strongly on life and getting involved with generosity, of looking to the future and thus being an antidote in regard to the resignation and loss of hope that marks our society; of being creative and imaginative, courageous in changing, and magnanimous when it comes to spending themselves for others or for ideals such as solidarity, justice and peace. With all their limitations, they are always a resource.”
I can testify, along with those who have formed our 10 new young priests, that truly these men do reflect the current culture, but are looking for ways to overcome the negative aspects of culture which have led to the general secularization of the world in which we live. Each year on the day before the priesthood ordination, I hold a day of recollection for those to be ordained. This year, the 10 men clearly expressed these concerns to me. I am happy to say that I believe that these new priests will be part of the antidote to the difficulties we find in the world today.
May I remind everyone that our diocesan Year for Vocations will begin Aug. 4, the Feast of St. John Vianney, patron of priests, in the Diocese of Brooklyn. We made the announcement early and have given some indications of what the diocese intends to do, so that we can plan vigorously for this Year for Vocations, the theme of which is “Reawakening the Call.”
Most importantly, a parish Vocation Committee will be established now before the end of the pastoral year in June, so that when September comes and the new pastoral year begins each parish Vocation Committee can be responsible for the many works of the Year for Vocations.
Finally, our Holy Father gives three recommendations to the formation of priests. First, prayer must always be part and parcel for the formation of those who would be priests. He says “Prayer, the relationship with God, the care of spiritual life will give soul to the ministry, and the ministry, so to speak, gives body to the spiritual life: because the priest sanctifies himself and others in a concrete exercise of ministry, especially preaching and celebrating the Sacraments.”
Secondly, Pope Francis always says, “walk always.” This is not as a means of exercise, but remind priests that he has never “arrived. He always remains a disciple, a pilgrim on the roads of the Gospel and of life.” The priest must find ways to make sure that he reaches the peripheries of society, where those most in need dwell.
Finally, the Holy Father tells us that the priest must learn to “share with the heart, because the presbyteral life is not a bureaucratic office or an ensemble of religious or liturgical practices to attend.”
Pope Francis is particularly concerned that priests today do not become bureaucrats. Rather, he wishes the priest to accompany those who they are sent to serve always finding ways to be closer to them and to God.
This past Saturday, we put out into the deep with the ordination of 10 young men to the priesthood. The parish where they are sent and their pastors will mentor them, so that they become shining examples in our diocese in Brooklyn and Queens of what the New Evangelization can and should be. Each is well motivated and full of zeal. Pray for them, that they will accomplish all that they have set out to do.