Priests with combined ministry of nearly 500 years honored during the Jubilarian Mass
Bishop Robert Deeley gathered with priests from across the Diocese of Portland to celebrate the annual jubilarian Mass, recognizing priests celebrating special anniversaries. This year, there are 10 jubilarians, who together have served the Church as priests for nearly 500 years.
“We celebrate our priesthood,” the bishop said. “It is the foundation of the fraternity that gathers us together. It is, as St. Paul has reminded us, the foundation of our mission. As we do that and give thanks for the gift that holy orders brings to us, we honor a number of priests who have lived that ministry of priesthood and who mark special anniversaries this year, 25, 40, 50, 55, and 60th.”
The bishop said that the Mass, celebrated May 23 at Holy Redeemer Church in Bar Harbor, provided a wonderful opportunity to express gratitude for the faithfulness of our priests and their willingness to follow’s God plan.
“Think of the many lives touched by them and the graces that have been gained through their ministry. It is all a blessing for which we give thanks this evening. Through the ministry of our good priests…God’s people are blessed to hear the Gospel of God’s grace,” the bishop said.
Not only did the bishop celebrate the jubilarian Mass, but he, too, was among those being honored. He was ordained 50 years ago, on July 14, 1973.
While not all the jubilarians were able to attend the Mass, those present included Fr. J. Joseph Ford, who is celebrating his 55th jubilee, Fr. Frank Morin, who is celebrating his 50th year of the priesthood, and Fr. Paul Sullivan, SJ, who was ordained 40 years ago and joined the Jesuits a decade before that.
“How quickly it’s gone by. Where did 40 years go to?” said Father Sullivan, who serves as pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Portland. “I didn’t expect when I first started that I would be doing parish work. I entered the Jesuits partly because I was interested in being a priest but also a teacher. I found as a pastor you are very much a teacher, but in a different way than I expected so it’s been a different unfolding than I would have expected.”
Father Sullivan described the priesthood as a privileged opportunity to get to know people.
“Because they understand the mission and they understand the grace involved, you quickly talk about things that you think are important to them. I always thought of a priest as somehow a gatekeeper. I don’t know if that is a good analogy, but I believe my job is to open the gates, to be as opening as possible to bring people in and to let them know, first of all, that it is God’s love. It is the good news of God’s love,” he said.
Father Frank Morin, who is retired from active priestly ministry but still celebrates Masses for the Hispanic community, says what struck him through his 50 years of the priesthood has been the variety of ministries in which he has served, including parish ministry, youth ministry, five years in Bolivia, and social justice initiatives.
“It’s a beautiful way of getting to know God through our deepening awareness of Christ and his message and the wonderful opportunities that the people in the parishes and the groups that I’ve been involved in have offered to me, helping me to grow in my appreciation of my faith. It’s the ability to renew lives in different parts of the world,” Father Morin said of the priesthood.
As he celebrates 55 years in the priesthood, Father Ford, who is retired from active ministry, said what comes to his mind is gratitude.
“Gratitude to God for the grace and for all that has transpired because of it,” he said. “We all need to be open to God’s goodness and God’s grace, and if we are, God abides with us.”
The jubilarian Mass is held during the diocese’s annual Clergy Institute, which brings together priests and deacons from around the diocese for a time of learning, reflection, and fellowship. This year, the institute is being held May 22-May 25, between the feasts of the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost, a period, the bishop recalled, that Pope Benedict XVI considered especially appropriate for prayer and reflection.
“Benedict was very attached to the notion of spending time in prayer in these days when we know the apostles themselves gathered with Mary, the Mother of God, in the upper room and were praying in anticipation of the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit. For Benedict, it was an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Church as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, alive with the Spirit’s anointing,” the bishop said. “It is good, then, for us to be together as the clergy of the Diocese of Portland in these days. We are not on retreat, but we are reflecting and praying on the ministry we share, a ministry within which we hope that we are bringing people closer to the Lord Jesus. By our efforts, we hope that we open people to listen to the Holy Spirit who is the bearer of the love of God.”
With the current celebration of the National Eucharistic Revival, special attention was also paid during the institute to the Eucharist as the heart of the Church.
“St. Paul reminds us that our faith directs us to the value of community. And he boldly reminds the leaders that they are to be dedicated to the mission of ‘bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace’ just as he has done. That means they are called to nurture the faith in the people by gathering them together and strengthening their communities,” the bishop said. “That is why we are focusing our attention on the Eucharist in these days. It is the place where we truly are the community of the Church. It is the place where we meet the Lord Jesus whose presence binds us together and whose love helps us to appreciate each other as his Spirit sends us forth to carry his mission to the world.”
The guest presenter at the Clergy Institute was Father Stephen Hayes, OP, a native of Boston, Mass., who serves as a retreat and mission director.