A Deeper Look at God's Call

University Presents Conference on Year for Priests

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By Kathleen Naab

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Year for Priests is a call to reflect on what brings about a decision to become a priest and the commitments that the vocation entails, as well as what God is calling his priests to do and be.

This was a reflection offered at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., during a two-day conference on the Year for Priests, which ended today. The symposium was titled “Ministerial Priesthood in the Third Millennium: ‘Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests.'”

The line-up of speakers was composed of five priest-experts who offered reflections on specific elements of the priesthood, ranging from the biblical foundations of the priesthood to the contemporary spirituality of the priest.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., led morning prayer on the second day.

One of the speakers, Father Michael Witczak, an assistant professor at the Catholic University School of Theology and Religious Studies, was asked to give theological insights on priesthood from the ordination ritual.

Father Witczak began his discourse, however, with a personal reflection.

“The designation of this as the Year for Priests has kind of led me back into some reflection on a personal level about my own decision about becoming a priest and what that was all about,” he said.

“For me,” the priest explained, “it was a reality that unfolded while I was still in grade school. And I still remember a newly ordained priest coming to my home parish of St. Robert in Sherwood, a suburb of Milwaukee. I was in 6th grade and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I would love to be able to do that,’ — to see him up at the altar, celebrating the Mass … and he was young, and he was vibrant and very attractive in a lot of different kinds of ways and I thought, ‘I think I might like to do that.'”

“And,” Father Witczak recounted, “I thought, ‘You know, the best thing of all is that everybody likes the priest.'”

“I had been ordained for one week when i discovered that that actually wasn’t true,” he quipped.

Stepping back

The priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee went on to say that in his reflection, he’s affirmed that the decision to be a priest and to continue to serve God is a decision nourished along the way.

“Thinking about that initial moment of feeling a strong attraction to the priesthood,” Father Witczak said, “and coming to this day after 32 years as a priest, coming to this day after years of celebrating the sacraments and years of studying the rites of the Church, I’ve come to realize that the decision that you make as a 6th grader, or the decision that you make at the end of theology to present yourself for ordination, or the decision that you make to continue to be a priest is something that continues to grow and to develop and is something that is nurtured by new experiences and by stepping back from time to time and taking a look at key moments and key texts that have led us to where we are.”

“And so to study the rite of ordination of a priest,” Father Witczak affirmed, “I think is an opportunity to rethink commitments and to take a deeper look at what God is calling us to do and to be.”

The various nuances of that calling were expounded in other talks on “Priesthood, Priestliness and Priests” and “Finding Our Way to God: Three Different Paths to Holiness.”

A panel discussion considered “Priest as Evangelizer.” Wrap-up sessions and questions-and-answers closed each day.

The conference was live-streamed at the Catholic University Web site, and archived versions of all the talks are now available. The texts of the addresses have also been compiled and are available in book form from the university’s Newman bookstore.

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On the Net:

Ministerial Priesthood in the Third Millennium: “Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests”: yearforpriests.cua.edu/index.cfm

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