Several days ago I received an invitation from Deacon Jack Schrader to attend his ordination and first Mass. He will be ordained a priest by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., at our cathedral on July 11 at 11 in the morning. I believe it will be Bishop da Cunha’s first ordination of a priest for the Diocese of Fall River. While invitations have been sent, all are invited to attend this prayerful and very meaningful ceremony.
Father Schrader will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving the next day at his home parish of Corpus Christi in East Sandwich. It is my understanding that he will spend his summer months visiting various parishes in the diocese preaching on vocations. He will return to Rome in the fall to continue his studies and earn an advanced degree in theology.
We pray in gratitude that this man has answered the call from God to be a priest.
Ordination, like Marriage, is a special day. For the priests, the diocese, and the members of the faithful in our diocese, it is a blessing to have another man “ordered” through the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve God’s people. He will make Christ present through the Sacramental ministry of the Church.
Although it is 48 years since my ordination day in 1967, I can still recall that day. Bishop James L. Connolly ordained us during a Mass celebrated in Latin at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Two members of our class have died and others now serve the diocese as retired priests. Nine of us were ordained that day.
Much has changed in those 48 years. I could elucidate on the many changes in the Church and in society in those years. I feel among the saddest changes during that time is the shortage of vocations. We thank God we have one priest, because there have been and will be years when no one will be ordained.
We are fortunate as a diocese. No one will go without Mass on any weekend. In some dioceses priests cannot get to a parish every week. Some priests have to travel to two or three parishes on a Sunday morning to provide Mass. Here in the diocese, in most cases, we can find two or three churches close to each other. Within about a mile of St. Mary’s in New Bedford there are seven churches. The shortages of priests will not mean we will not be able to go to Mass.
However, the shortage of priests already means that the priest is not as available as he used to be. At St. Mary’s there were three priests stationed here. Now I, like most priests, am alone in serving the parish. The downside is that priests are working harder and cannot do all they would like to do. All the requests of people cannot be met. We depend on parishioners to take over some of the functions performed by the priest that were not relegated solely to clergy. A good aspect of the clergy shortage is the greater involvement of the laity in fulfilling their baptismal vocation.
A priest is needed to make Christ present in the Eucharist, to forgive our sins in the Person of Christ and to anoint us when we are sick. A priest is there to make Christ present in many ways, including His example of prayer and Christian living. We are also called to share priests with our brothers and sisters in countries and areas who have no priests.
Videos, retreats, and programs like “Quo Vadis,” assist in fostering vocations. Visitations by seminarians and vocation teams to schools and catechetical programs help to instill a desire for priesthood and religious life. Family and school support is essential in forming vocations. But the most important way to get vocations is to pray. Jesus asked us to pray to the Master of the harvest to send laborers into the vineyard.
On the occasion of the ordination to priesthood this year it might be good for us to examine how often we pray for vocations. How regularly do we hear prayers or Masses offered in our parishes for vocations to the priesthood? I believe we do not pray frequently for this intention.
In our parish bulletin we have some empty spaces for ads. Each quarter I add something on the back page to utilize the space.
This quarter I have inserted a prayer for vocations. I am adding it here in the hope that you will cut it out and recite it daily. After all, would you not want a priest to be there for you and your family in those special moments of your life? Please recite this diocesan prayer for vocations:
“Heavenly Father, You desire the happiness and Salvation of all. Stir up the grace of a holy vocation in the hearts of many within our diocese. Grant them the willingness and generosity to give themselves completely to the service of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and to His Holy Church. May more young men and women be sent forth as priests, deacons, and religious to bring the truth of our Catholic faith to a sinful world. May these whom You are calling, come to know You better and to love You more, and may they find true happiness in serving You as priests and religious for the Salvation of their souls and the souls of others. We especially invoke the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption, patroness of our diocese, to send us young men to serve in the Sacred ministry here in the Diocese of Fall River. Amen.”
Anchor columnist Msgr. Oliveira is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, New Bedford and director of the diocesan Propagation of the Faith and Permanent Diaconate offices.