May 9, 2011

By Most Reverend Edward J. Burns

Saturday, April 30, 2011 was a most fulfilling day for the Diocese of Juneau and for me personally. It was the day we celebrated the priestly ordination of Father Steven Patrick Gallagher as the newest priest of the Diocese of Juneau. A number of people from the Diocese, including Fr. Scott Settimo and Fr. Peter Gorges, traveled to Saint Michael Parish in Olympia, Washington to celebrate the ancient ritual of ordination. When I arrived at St. Michael Parish, the excitement level was high. Father Gallagher had gathered with family and friends on the evening before to “walk-through” the ordination in preparation for the next day. Deacon Charles Rohrbacher served as master of ceremonies for the event. It was good to see a number of parishes of the Diocese of Juneau represented. Parishioners from the Cathedral and St. Paul in Juneau, St. Gregory in Sitka and Holy Name Parish in Ketchikan attended the ordination. The reason why this ordination took place outside the Diocese was to have Father Gallagher’s elderly mother in attendance. I mentioned in my homily that the people who gathered for this ordination made up the fabric of Father Gallagher’s life – his family, co-workers in law enforcement, seminary personnel, former parishioners from Olympia and members of the Diocese of Juneau.
This was truly a day of celebration. A man does not come to ordination alone. First and foremost, a strong vocation begins with the family. Parents are the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. The foundational elements of the faith are taught in the home through prayers and through modeling the faith by way of discussion and church attendance. It is also the people in the parish who play a significant role in helping to form a priestly vocation – this includes the parish priest, religious and deacons, catechists, and the lay faithful. It is our responsibility to create an environment in which the seed of a priestly calling can be nurtured within our parish community and within a man’s life.
The priests of the Diocese of Juneau recognize that they have a particular responsibility in bringing forth priestly vocations. Just as a priest serves in the person of Christ at the altar by saying “this is my body” and “this is my blood,” and in the confessional by saying “I absolve you of all your sins…” – so too does he serve in the person of Christ when he says “come follow me.” I am aware that there are a few men within our diocese who are considering a priestly vocation. Let us pray for them and together as a diocesan family continue to encourage these men by creating an environment in which their vocation will grow. This “environment” will allow a man to continue to listen to the voice of the shepherd.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 is World Day of Prayer for Vocations within the Church. It coincides with Good Shepard Sunday, that is, the Sunday whereby the Gospel proclaims Christ as the Good Shepard and we, his faithful followers, listen to his voice. This year we celebrate the 48th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Our Holy Father usually offers a message to the Church regarding the theme of vocations. In his message this year, Pope Benedict XVI states:
“It is no less challenging to follow Christ today. It means learning to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, growing close to him, listening to his word and encountering him in the sacraments; it means learning to conform our will to his. This requires a genuine school of formation for all those who would prepare themselves for the ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life under the guidance of the competent ecclesial authorities. The Lord does not fail to call people at every stage of life to share in his mission and to serve the Church in the ordained ministry and in the consecrated life.”

It is important that in order to remain a vibrant Church we must have good priests to proclaim the Word and celebrate the sacraments instituted by Christ. Through the ministry of our priests we remain a Eucharistic community as they serve in the person of Christ. It is my hope that all of us will play a part in supporting priestly vocations so that we may be included into the fabric of the lives of future priests for the Diocese of Juneau. Allow me to conclude with our Holy Father’s closing words to the Church in this year’s message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations:

“The ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church. With trust and perseverance let us invoke the aid of the Virgin Mary, that by the example of her own acceptance of God’s saving plan and her powerful intercession, every community will be more and more open to saying “yes” to the Lord who is constantly calling new laborers to his harvest.”