From Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to Administrative Professionals’ Day and Grandparent’s Day, there are many days throughout the year designated to recognize and honor special people in our lives. Did you know that in some Catholic Churches throughout the country they celebrate Father’s Day twice a year? In addition to the well-known Father’s Day held the third Sunday in June each year when children honor their dads (and apologize for all the grey hairs they’ve caused throughout the years) the last Sunday in October is set aside to thank our spiritual fathers—priests.
In 2003, the USA Council of Serra International—the organization whose mission is to foster and affirm vocations to the priesthood and vowed religious life—organized the first Priesthood Sunday. They felt there was a great need to honor those who are called to be priests. There are many references throughout the Old and New Testament regarding the importance of priests and clergy: “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15). In Mark 16:15, Jesus told the apostles, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The role of priests is essential to the prosperity of the Church. Priests wear many hats in the Church, yet the most important is to be a mediator between God and us. Without priests, there would be no one to transform the bread into the Body of Christ, no one to absolve us of our sins, no one to marry us, bury us, and the list goes on…
Pope Francis outlined the 7 pillars of Priesthood as:
- The strength of a priest depends on his relationship with Christ.
- Just as he must be close to Christ so the priest must be close to the people he serves.
- A priest’s authority must be linked to service, especially to the care and protection of the poorest, weakest, the least important and most easily forgotten.
- The priest must be a minister of mercy.
- The priest is called to simplicity of life.
- The priest must be a model of integrity.
- The priest is to be a source of blessing for his people.
Ways to Express Appreciation To Your Priest
This year, Priesthood Sunday is October 25, 2015. Whether or not your parish plans on celebrating, there are many ways you and your family can show your appreciation. Here are some suggestions:
- Give your priest a spiritual bouquet. Send a card letting him know that you will set aside a day each week, once a month, etc. to pray for his protection and for God’s grace to help him fulfill his role of bringing people closer to God. You can write something such as, “Father please accept this spiritual bouquet as a thank you for all you do for our parish. I will say the rosary once a month for one year for all of your special intentions.”
- Send him a note of thanks detailing a specific time when he helped you or had a positive impact on your life. (For example, when one of his homilies moved you, a time when he counseled you, or just sat down and listened to you vent about a personal problem).
- Send him a flowering plant or a small tree that he can plant on the church property. Let him know that as the tree grows and thrives, that’s a reflection of how he’s helping his parishioners grow in their love for God.
- Give him a biography of a popular priest, saint, or pope.
- Remember, priests are regular people, too with hobbies and interests outside the church. Get him something related to his interests, whether it’s golf, traveling, cooking, or art. If you aren’t sure try calling the parish office and speak to his office support staff. They likely know what he likes and doesn’t like.
- Make a gift basket of baked goods, chocolates, coffee and beverages, etc.
- A gift card to a restaurant, Catholic store, or for gas.
- Tickets to a sporting event or play.
Did You Know These Priesthood Facts and Stats?
- As of 2014 there are 38,275 Catholic priests in the U.S. and 414,313 worldwide.
- There was a modest increase in the number of priests in Africa, a larger rise in Asia, and slight decreases in the Americas, Europe and Oceania.
- Asia saw a 13.7 percent growth in the number of priests between 2007 and the end of 2012.
- The number of parishes without a resident priest pastor: 3,496.
In addition to thanking your parish priest this year, remember to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.