St. Anthony parishioners celebrate Priesthood Sunday

FLORENCE – Father Arturo Dalupang, pastor of St. Anthony Church, found encouragement from his parish’s participation in National Priesthood Sunday Oct. 26.

Even the parish children pitched in.

“The kids are having an essay contest,” said Father Dalupang. “This is an effort of the church to reconcile all these issues of abuse and how we can support the priests and how the priests can support the community, too. It’s kind of like a give-and-take.”

Priesthood Sunday, a celebration of the American priesthood, is a national effort supported by a wide array of Catholic organizations seeking to show their support for priests, whose image has been damaged by the American church’s prolonged sexual abuse crisis. National organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Serra International, and others support the one-day event.

Parishes received a “Priesthood Sunday Guide” which provided suggestions to help plan liturgy, celebration and dialogue activities for the event.

St. Anthony parishioner Ed Garand takes a lot of photographs for the church and the bulletin. He said Priesthood Sunday was a positive effort.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “It may help vocations a little and make people aware of it.”

The first reading of the Mass on Priesthood Sunday was the story of Jesus giving sight to the blind beggar Bartimaeus. Deacon Reginald Armstrong gave the homily.

“ ‘Son of David, have pity on me,’ ” Deacon Armstrong said Bartimaeus shouted to Jesus. “So often our priests are overwhelmed with the demands that are added to their pastoral ministry. These can include administrative details, the upkeep of parish buildings and grounds, the extra responsibilities that often grow out of a special gift and the challenges of maintaining and supervising a parish and parochial school staff. Still the priest is called upon to discern which of these ‘shouts’ deserves his special care.”

The deacon said that Jesus stopped and asked his followers to call Bartimaeus, who was crying out to him.

“Our priests are called upon to respond to those who cry out for healing,” he said. “As faithful Catholics, our ears must be attuned to the calls of those who are crying out for healing and reconciliation. In many instances we can be agents of that reconciliation and healing. In other instances, especially when one member of our family or parish community is especially weighed down by suffering, perhaps we can lead that person to our priest.

“Are priests the only ones who are supposed to be holy, the only ones who are to evangelize? No, we all share by virtue of our common baptism the priesthood of the people, and are called to live out the Gospel in our lives. But the Lord intended that a ministerial priesthood be set aside to minister to his people.

“Priests are to be examples of holiness, and they are examples of the transcendent. Priests bridge the gap between our fallen human world and the transcendent beauty of heaven. Priests are understood to be different, set apart from the mainstream,” Deacon Amstrong said.

The deacon reminded the congregation that priests are human.

“Pray for our priests that they may not fail,” he said. “For the last several years a great shadow has been cast over the priesthood by the sexual abuse scandal. Our current crisis is not simply a sexual crisis; it is a crisis of faith.

“Our church has weathered crises before; the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against her now,” he said. “Another piece of good news is that the sacraments are efficacious in and of themselves because Christ is performing the sacrament through the priest. Can you imagine the horror if priests had to be absolutely sinless in order to celebrate a sacrament? We’d all wonder if our baptisms or confessions were valid. No, the sacrament bestows grace upon the recipient in spite of the holiness of the priest. Of course, we pray that they may be free of all temptation and be without sin.”

On a lighter note, the deacon recalled the time that the late Father Scott Buchanan, a parochial vicar, gave a ride to Bishop Robert J. Baker. It was just after the bishop had come out in favor of removing the flag from the Statehouse dome, and Father Buchanan was concerned about giving the bishop a ride in his car.

“I didn’t quite get his concern until he reminded me that his front license plate was a Confederate flag,” Deacon Armstrong said.