By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY — Priests who’ve graced Patti McTaggart’s life have brought her through hard times such as burying her father, and joyous times including the baptisms of nieces and nephews. And when she was young, her parents often invited their parish pastor to dinner, or perhaps a boat ride.
“To me, priests were like an extension of my family,” said the youth minister at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City.
In honor of the clergy, she’s organized a Mass at St. Mary’s for priests on Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m. with Bishop Martin Amos presiding. The Mass is being offered in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s decree designating the 12 months from June 19, 2009 to June 2010 as the Year for Priests.
McTaggart sees the liturgical celebration as an opportunity to celebrate the “awesomeness” of the priesthood, which she noted the secular media doesn’t always cast in positive light.
“I just want people, especially young people, to see the greatness of being called to be a servant of God,” she said. All Catholics are called to his service because of their baptism, but clergy answer a call to a “special ministry,” she added.
Bishop Amos highlighted the opportunity for both ordained and lay ministers to come together at the Mass. “What a wonderful time for us to gather with the all the laity and all our co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord to celebrate that he has given us the gifts of the priesthood and the Eucharist,” he said.
During Mass, a brass ensemble paid for by the Still insurance agency of the Knights of Columbus will lead music, and choirs from St. Mary’s and from Regina High School will sing. St. Mary parishioner Gino DeLuca will serve as cantor and will play piano at a post-Mass dinner for priests.
Knights of Columbus from St. Wenceslaus, St. Mary and St. Patrick parishes and the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City, as well as Court Craigie No. 94 of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, are assisting with that dinner. The national order of Knights of Columbus is donating 1,000 prayer cards, and each council in the Davenport Diocese is paying for its priest’s supper, Gary Sieren said. He is a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish Knights of Columbus Council No. 14385 in Iowa City.
A Fourth Degree Honor Guard from Knights of Columbus assemblies throughout the diocese will be present at Mass.
As a child, McTaggart came to appreciate the gift of priests in part from seeing them not only at Mass, but at basketball games, on bike rides, on boating excursions and at her home. “They have a great sense of humor; they can make you realize you can’t take life too seriously,” she said.
Sieren also said priests have always had a special place in his personal life.
Priests were around “to help me through the more difficult and challenging situations, constantly reminding me that I am one of God’s special children,” Sieren said. “Without our beloved priests, we would be deprived of the most important prayer available to us — the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”
Jane Wonick, regent for Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court No. 94, said helping serve the meal and providing pies for priests “is only a token show of gratitude in relation to the immense gift that priests give the church and humanity itself.”
“My family has been very blessed to be associated with wonderful priests throughout our lives,” Sieren said.
All are invited to the Mass at St. Mary’s. Dinner afterward will be served to clergy.