I’m happy to report that my vacation was a very refreshing one! I spent the week with a good friend of mine from the North American College who is a parish priest in his home Diocese of Phoenix. It’s such an amazing gift for brother priests to get together. As young men in seminary, it’s easy to become close to each other as you work toward a common goal. But like friends from high school and college, as the years drift by, it’s also easy to lose touch with some of those friends. So to say the least, I was grateful for the opportunity to spend a little time away during this first week of summer to revisit an old friend and to invest in some extra time praying and relaxing!

Every year in May, we as the priests of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois gather together to celebrate priest “jubilees,” or significant anniversaries of ordination. In fact, one of the honorees was Fr. Kevin Sullivan, a former pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, who celebrated his 60th anniversary of ordination. Again, it’s a beautiful gift to be able to celebrate priesthood together as brother priests. I was struck in particular by one of the comments made by our guest speaker for the day, Bishop Mark Bartosic, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He quipped, “In our times, what the world needs isn’t just a priest. It needs a presbyterate.” By that, if I may interpret, he meant that our world needs not just the witness of a single priest, but a priesthood—a group of priests united in mission and prayer. That, in part, is why I am grateful to have had the consistent gift of living with other priests. It’s a simple reminder that I’m not a bachelor, and that I am part of a greater band of men who are committed to serving the Church.

In that same vein, as you’ll see, we have this coming week our annual priest retreat. This is a yearly gathering of our Diocesan priests to fulfill our canonical requirement to go on a five-day retreat each year (believe it or not, we’re “required” to go on retreat as priests!). While we are not obligated to attend this Diocesan retreat, it is another of these beautiful opportunities to live as a presbyterate and to join together in prayer as brother priests. It’s a gift to me to see priests both young and old joining together around the dinner table, celebrating Mass and holy hours together, and sharing the priestly life. Thank you for allowing me another week away from the parish to be able to join for our annual priest retreat! I promise, I won’t be gone every other week for the entire summer…ha!

Speaking of how awesome it is to celebrate the gift of ordination, some of you were able to witness and pray with us last Friday as one of our former seminarians was ordained to the transitional diaconate (for those of you wondering, “transitional” means that eventually these deacons will transition on to priesthood, whereas the “permanent” diaconate are those men who, often married, are ordained as deacons with no intention of receiving priestly ordination). The now Deacon Daniel McGrath, along with two other men, was consecrated to a life of service in the Church and made his promises of obedience, celibacy, and prayer. Thank you to all of you who came to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for his ordination. I know that Our Lady of Lourdes meant so much to Deacon McGrath during his time here, so I was grateful that so many of you were able to come and support him with your prayers. Of course, it’s not too late to continue doing so, or to send him a word of encouragement! Deacon McGrath will spend his summer at Mother of Dolors Parish in Vandalia—but I do sincerely hope to have him back to celebrate a weekend Mass with us sometime this summer/fall, and to listen to his words of diaconal wisdom!

While we as a local Church (i.e. Diocese) were blessed to receive three men as transitional deacons, we will unfortunately not be ordaining any men as priests this year. That’s not as bad as it sounds, considering how many young men we’ve been blessed to ordain in the past several years. But it’s a good reminder for us that priests don’t just fall out of the sky. We must continue to pray and encourage our young people (the ones who are in OUR lives) to pray about a vocation to priesthood or consecrated religious life. May the Lord continue to bless us with faithful men to serve as priests and faithful young women to serve the Lord in religious vows.

And here’s to a beautiful start to summer!

Keep spreading joy!

Fr. Friedel

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