Priest program examines life

COLUMBIA — Approximately 75 priests serving in the Diocese of Charleston met with Bishop David B. Thompson for the Second Convocation of Priests at the Sheraton Hotel in late January.

The topic was “Renewing Priestly Identity.” The program, developed by Father Eugene LaVerdiere, focused on priesthood as experienced in daily life. The three-day conference is administered by the National Organization for the Continuing Education of the Roman Catholic Clergy. It was facilitated by priests of the organization, Vincentian Father Roy Persich and Father Don Snyder of the Diocese of Cleveland.

The program was a direct result of last year’s convocation in Charleston when the majority of priests wanted to gather again to discuss identity.

The “Renewing Priestly Identity” is a national program that has had much success among priests in dioceses throughout the country.

The priests and Bishop Thompson sat in nine groups. The four themes of the sessions were presented and participants shared in groups and reported to the whole assembly. The first session, “Our Images of Priesthood,” allowed participants to develop various images that described the priesthood as they experienced it.

The second session, “The Challenges of Being a Priest in a Changing World,” helped priests fine tune the images and look at the shifts that had occurred in their ministry over the last several decades. Participants were given a brief description of the historical changes, how the Church adapted and its effect on priesthood. Each participant was given the opportunity to identify the changes he had experienced.

The third session, “Sharing Jesus’ Concerns from Scripture,” challenged the priests to look at their ministry in the light of the gospel ministry of Jesus. How did their image of priesthood fit into the images of priesthood left by Christ? In the final session, “The Journey Continues,” possibilities for the future were explored.

The program, an opportunity for priests to talk to each other in an open manner, showed the need for priests to get together to support one another and simply enjoy being priests. In his closing remarks, Bishop Thompson said he would like to do it again.

Contributed by Father Thomas Evatt, director of the Office of Continuing Education for Priests.