By Barb Arland-Fye
Priests of the Davenport Diocese explored the context in which they are being called to minister during a two-day convocation led by the Tucson, Ariz., Diocese’s Bishop Gerald Kicanas.
During a brief interview with The Catholic Messenger after the March 30 Chrism Mass in Davenport, Bishop Kicanas shared what he planned to talk about with the priests.
“We entered the new millennium with great hopes of prosperity and peace, but war continues, the economy is in crisis and so many people are indifferent to faith,” Bishop Kicanas observed.
It’s not so different from the time in which St. Paul lived while he was preaching, writing and evangelizing in the early years of Christianity.
Paul had his challenges; among them were ministering in divided communities, communities that were indifferent to the Word of God, the bishop said. The apostle had highs and lows in life; he could be irascible, and yet “he was the instrument through which God brought great things.”
But Paul didn’t do it alone; he had co-workers to help him in his mission. And despite the ups and downs, Paul “felt confident that he was called by God.”
That’s something that today’s priests need to realize: “We are called to proclaim the Word of God,” said Bishop Kicanas, who also is vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Breaking open the Word of God ought to be central in the lives of the priests and in the lives of the people they serve, he continued. That’s Pope Benedict XVI’s desire, too, and why he convened the Synod of Bishops on Scripture last year.
But in order for that desire to become reality, priests need to reflect on and pray over the Scriptures in their own lives first, the bishop said.
He said he would encourage priests to throw in their lot with God. “In good times and in bad, he is the one who sustains us.”
Bishop Kicanas stressed the need for priests to interact with one another in prayer, work and play, to collaborate well with deacons and lay people and to retain a love for all the people they serve — even if at times that is difficult.
He shared a story about a gift that Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa received from a children’s choir during a visit to Chicago. In presenting the gift, one of the young children said to Archbishop Tutu: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?
“That was the gift, that God sustains us,” Bishop Kicanas said.