Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, my dear friend, asked me some time ago to write a general letter to a priest telling him what we thought he might need to hear on a priest’s retreat. I re-edited the one I gave him recently and thought it worthy of sharing:
Just a short note of thanks for your service to the people of God. It’s not often that priests get to hear those words of affirmation and so I think it’s important for you to hear the words “thank you.”
You may be asking a question right now, though: What am I being thanked for? Well, I’d like to think that there is a lot that we don’t thank you for enough. So here’s my list of things that you may have done for not only someone like me, but perhaps thousands of parishioners.
Thanks for being there when the time came to bury my parents. I needed your support and your words of comfort were just what I needed.
Thanks for taking such care with your homilies on Sunday. I always come away thinking, prayerfully, unlike any other time in the week when my mind seems to be rambling about things that just fill up my day with chatter.
Thanks for being a welcoming presence to newcomers in our parish. I know that I found a warm welcome that first day when I walked through the door and you recognized me as a stranger and asked me my name.
Thanks for baptizing all the children in my family. Your care and tender way of ritualizing those new lives always brought a tear to my eyes.
Thanks for having an ear for me when I was out of work. You helped me realize that while I was unemployed God was still there working things out so that they would soon get better.
Thanks for providing the Eucharist for us every week. I remember being in the developing world and seeing how disappointed people were to not have a priest in their midst and therefore no access to the Eucharist. It was then I realized that we could be that same parish if it were not for you.
Thanks for helping me get off the booze.
Thanks for guiding me in confession and for doing so in such an accepting way. You never made me feel dirty or evil but always let me know that I had the power to do great things if I would just get out of my own way.
Thanks for preparing my spouse and I for marriage. We still use that little book you gave us until this day.
Thanks for simply being a friend. For letting us know that you too, are human and need God’s help.
Thanks for your patience. I’m sure there have been a lot of times when I’ve probably placed you unfairly on too high of a pedestal, only to be disappointed when you acted in a perfectly acceptable human way. It was wrong of me to think that you needed to be Superman. Ironically, however, most of the time you met that challenge with surprising super-human actions–going those extra miles when nobody else would.
Thanks for asking me to be a lector at mass. I’ve really enjoyed serving with you on the altar.
Thank you for working alongside me on your staff. You have been a model of collaboration with the laity and a pleasure to work with on projects. You’ve respected my own ministry knowing that we all have a call to serve God with our very lives.
Thanks for visiting me in the hospital when nobody else came to be by my bedside.
There are so many things that we have to be thankful for together. You too, should be thankful today for your own priesthood and rejoice in the man you have become for others.
The church has always taught that God never gives us more than we can handle. And from that simple teaching we learn two things. One is that he must think very highly of you because you have dealt with a lot as a priest. From the parish “crazies” to repairing church buildings, to insufferable council members, to screaming babies during your homilies–you have handled it all with such grace. The second is that God must also think much of us. Because after all, when we were struggling, God sent us you.
Thank you so much for all that you have been and continue to be as a priest.
May God continue to bless all of us with the gift that is your priesthood.
In His Holy Name,
To all the priests in my life, most especially, Fr. Jack Ledwon, Fr. Bob Perelli, Msgr. J. Patrick Keleher and Msgr. Angelo Calugeri who I am blessed to work alongside here in Buffalo. And Bishop Kmiec and his secretary, Msgr. David LiPuma who often bless us with their presence. Thank you.
To the Paulist Fathers who continue to bless my life, especially Fr. Jack Collins, CSP, Fr. Brett Hoover, CSP, Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP, Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, Fr. Charlie Donahue, CSP, Fr. Steven Bell, CSP, Fr. Jaime Baca, CSP, Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP, Fr. Eric Andrews, CSP, Fr. Chuck Kullmann, CSP, Fr. Tim Sullivan, CSP, and Fr. Frank DiSiano, CSP and Fr John Duffy, CSP who served as presidents while I was in their employ–thank you so much.
Lastly, Msgr Cajetan J. Troy was my pastor growing up and he taught me much simply by letting me hang around the rectory. He was a wonderful mentor and a kind and gentle man. May he rest in peace, along with his brother Joe, who was also a Paulist Priest.
We hear much bad news about priests, but there is also much to celebrate about them. So I thought I’d just take a brief second to say thanks.
Have you thanked a priest today?