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Posted September 23, 2009

Year of Priests, Year to Recall St. Paul

Author: Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, NY
Origins. Sept. 17, 2009. Vol. 39. No. 15

“Priests today, if they are to exercise their sacerdotal ministry successfully, must also be collaborators, working harmoniously with brother priests and deacons, vowed religious, lay ecclesial ministers, ecumenical colleagues and the gifted members of the faith community they serve,” Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y. said in his monthly message for August. The bishop discussed the ongoing Year for Priests and how St. Paul can be seen as a model for priests today. He said that priests, “like Paul, must be evangelists both to those not yet part of the fold and to the members of the flock.”

Bishop Hubbard noted that while people may admire a priest’s skills as an educator, conunselor or administrator, what people “need to sense most is that the priest is present in their midst not for his own personal aggrandizement, privilege or status — not to rule, control or discipline — but to walk with them as a brother among brothers and sisters on our shared journey of Christian discipleship.” He said that today’s church is “being scandalized by tensions and divisions, with people being labeled as liberal or conservative, orthodox or unorthodox” and that priests must seek to heal wounds and find common ground.

Excerpts from the Text of Bishop Hubbard:

Last year the church observed the year of Paul of Tarsus, the great apostle to the gentiles. The confluence of these celebrations is significant, I believe, because of six aspects of Paul’s exemplary apostolic ministry. . . .

As a pastor, two things were obvious in his ministry: his immense love for the people he served and his pastoral solicitude for their salvation.

Second, Paul was a pre-eminent preacher — a man consumed with the desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its integrity: to tell the story of Jesus in word, in worship and in countless practical examples of applicability to people’s everyday life experience.

Third, Paul was an evangelist. He had an insatiable thirst for bringing the Gospel of Christ to those places where it was not yet known: from Jerusalem to Asia Minor, to Greece and ultimately to a martyr’s death in Rome.

Fourth, Paul was able to accomplish as much as he did because he was a collaborator. He preferred not to be a “loner apostle,” but to work together with other preachers, teachers, prophets, deacons and servants of the Lord.

Fifth, Paul was a healer and reconciler. In so many of his epistles, he sought to address tensions and divisions which had arisen among the members of the churches he founded or in which he preached.

Finally, Paul was a man of prayer. Almost all of Paul’s letters open with a paragraph of prayer: “I am grateful to God when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

During the Year of the Priest, please pray for our priests that they, like Paul, may strive to be loving pastors, insightful preachers, enthusiastic evangelists, collaborative co-workers, compassionate healers and men of fervent prayer — and thus by their life and ministry truly give honor and glory to God and bring hope, peace and joy to God’s people.