By Fr. Marty Goetz
In a few weeks, I will be accompanying a group of Assumption High School students to the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., for a visit. One of the highlights for me will be to show them the pictures hanging on the wall of all the priests who studied at Mundelein and were ordained for the Diocese of Davenport. My picture is hanging on the wall with the class of 1992. I have a lot more hair and none of it is gray!
It will be interesting to hear the comments of the Assumption students when they see the picture of a priest they know. When I have been at Mundelein with other groups, there is often good-natured laughter and fond memories as they view the photos. “Father was much thinner!” “And so young and good-looking!” “Father had more hair! What happened to it?” Some visitors are relatives looking for a family member. Some are recalling priests who have died. There are smiles of recognition and stories about how the priest influenced their lives. And then it hits me: people love their priests!
A few weeks ago, with the help of The Catholic Messenger and the Serra Club of Davenport, I invited students across the diocese to participate in a Vocation Promotion contest celebrating and honoring our priests. Students in grades four through eight were invited to use their imagination to comment on their favorite priest. The topic was: What does your priest mean to you? I am pleased to announce that we received more than 250 entries from across the diocese.
The responses were wonderful. Some made up posters. Some created jingles. Most wrote essays. They were creative and inspiring. Unfortunately, we were only able to choose 16 to have pizza with Bishop Martin Amos. I share with you some of the observations that contestants made about priests:
Dear Father (Joseph) Sia, I am glad you came to Muscatine to share your talents with us. You are a very good priest. You are always willing to teach us what you know about our Lord. I have learned a lot since you have come here. I remember a couple of weeks ago you told me that Christ was not Jesus’ last name. That inspired me to learn more about God and Jesus.
Without priests, how can we hear God’s word? How could we understand? Priests are an important asset within our church. They dedicate their lives to teaching the future generations of the Church the Word of God. How could we receive Communion, Reconciliation, or even know about Jesus without priests? I can’t even imagine a world like that!
Father Tom Spiegel is so many things it’s hard to put it in words. A man who devotes his life to Christ is amazing. When Fr. Tom turns the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus, it is phenomenal. I am thinking about becoming a priest and whenever I have a question Fr. Tom explains it clearly and detailed. He is an interpreter of God’s word. Fr. Tom is an awesome, awesome priest. He is my role model, friend, a rock of my faith, a loving man, and most of all, he is my priest.
The universal patron of priests, St. John Vianney, once said, “The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.” The students who responded to the contest have truly experienced the “love of the Heart of Jesus” through God’s faithful priests.