Where do priests come from? was one of the things I didn’t know growing up in Alabama. I assumed it happened in Ireland, since Birmingham was mission territory and most of our priests were from far away. I have learned much since then, and nobody in this parish has reason to wonder after last weekend. We have all been schooled in where priests come from.
Priests come to us from the Archbishop. It is the Archbishop of Washington, for about a month now Archbishop Gregory, who sends us priests, or rather, assigns them to us for a period of time. As we saw at the splendid Priesthood Ordination Mass last week, the Archbishop also makes new priests; this year, ten of them. And he is sending one of them to us!
Father Michael Russo, ordained last week, will begin his assignment here on July 10. However (BIG however) he has another assignment too: to complete his License in Theology at Catholic University. So he will be returning there about the third week in August, after only five or six weeks with us. That’s not far away, so we shall see what happens after that. Perhaps if you all help him learn to love Saint Bernadette we will see more of him throughout the year! It’s an unusual situation – one I don’t recall occurring before – but we shall all learn together how it can work for the good of us who love God.
Priests come, and priests go. An assignment from the Archbishop is a fact of priestly life, and our own Father Ben Petty is no exception. He learned that he will go to Saint Mary in Landover for ten weeks, then back to Rome to finish his License (second graduate degree) over the coming academic year.
Priests come from all over the world. Last year, the Archbishop sent us Father Emmanuel Magro, a priest of Gozo in Malta. As you heard from his own lips two weeks ago, this year he is being sent to somebody else – to Blessed Sacrament in Chevy Chase. He will be here with us until July 10, the date all this summer’s priest assignments take effect. We shall have to do something to express our gratitude for his time with us!
It just so happens that this month marks the fortieth anniversary of Fr. Magro’s Ordination to the Priesthood, and he will offer a Mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate that milestone, here in our church, at the 11:00 Mass on Sunday June 30. Then we will all retire downstairs to the Monsignor Stricker Room for a reception to mark that event, and bid him a fond farewell. As usual, we will welcome helpers to make that reception more special, but everybody: y’all come!
After Father Ben Petty’s Ordination, we showed our pride and joy in him with two beautiful receptions here, and a marvelous Mass, which together poured out all the things that make this parish so important to him: love of God and neighbor, beautiful music, great liturgical ministers, over-achieving hospitality, and good-natured affection. What a great time! Last weekend revealed to all who have eyes to see where priests come from, and right there with his family, and friends, and teachers, there were the people of this parish, where he discerned Christ’s call to him. There is no reason to wonder any longer: Priests come from Saint Bernadette!