May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord
through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The priests of the Diocese of Orlando serve the Lord well. Humbly, they offer the transcendence of the Holy Spirit through their priestly ministry that they never boast except in the Cross of our Lord. These priests make a commitment to God to serve Him for their life on earth. While the age of 75 is the ‘required’ age of retirement, priests never retire from their Sacramental ministry.
Throghout each year, you may know of our persistent call for vocations to the priesthood; our prayer of supplication asking the Lord to send workers for His harvest. Likewise, we pray for the ordained priests to experience the joy of the Lord and express that joy in faithfulness to their identity.
The priesthood is not just a job to be carried out; a career that begins and ends. It is a Sacrament to be lived, as the Lord invites the one who receives it. Through the Sacrament of Ordination, priests receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit and are “signed with a special character and are conformed to Christ the Priest in such a way that they can act in the person of Christ the Head” (Presbyterorum ordinis 2).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pastorally offers this wisdom, “The truth is that the greater the faithful’s awareness of their own responsibilities within the Church, the clearer becomes the specific identity and inimitable role of the priest as pastor of the entire community, witness to the authenticity of the faith, and dispenser of the mysteries of salvation in the name of Christ the Head.”
We are experiencing a shortage of priests in the Diocese of Orlando. More than 50% of our diocesan priests are retired. As the number of Catholics living within the Diocese of Orlando continues to grow, we are blessed with religious order priests and priests of other Dioceses throughout the world to form the people to God that you may know, love and serve Him. Some of you have already experienced this shortage as parishes share priests so that God’s yield is fulfilled.
Our retired priests are the lifeblood of our Diocese of Orlando; they are the historical face of its inception. They are the ones whose courage forged our parishes and missions. Their care for the lowly settled refugees from Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Croatia, and many other lands. They are the ones whose eye for Christ laid the foundation of our food pantries. They never grow weary of serving as joy in the Lord. They are important to the Sacramental nature of God’s people. They are necessary to our spiritual health as they willingly celebrate Mass in parishes; anoint the sick; confer the Sacrament of Reconciliation; lead retreats; and support the newly ordained priests through wise counsel and spiritual direction. They live as they are called to be a mediator, a bridge that connects, and thereby to bring the people to God, to His redemption, to His true light, to His true life.
Now, I ask you to financially support the diocesan ministries to care for these retired priests that their human and spiritual needs are secure through the Priest Retirement and Priest Care Annual Diocesan Collection. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:35). Our retired priests exemplify Jesus’ words. May the Cross of the Lord be our mark of Him who loves us so well.