When our seminary class was approaching the “end of the road” of our seminary training, Fr. William Crenner, S.M., then Director at the Marianist Retreat House, Dayton, OH, preached our ordination retreat, on “LIVING the Sacrament of Holy Orders”, May 24-31, 1964. Two brief comments of his stood out for me and became guides for how I wanted to be a priest in the years following:
Sunday, May 31, 1964, the day I’d longed for since childhood finally dawned. I was 27 years old. Vivid and treasured memories of that day still come to mind. Bishop Paul Francis Leibold, Auxiliary Bishop, and later, Archbishop, of Cincinnati, a quiet, soft-spoken man, moved through the ordination service very deliberately. His ordaining me to the orders of subdeacon and deacon previously, and now as priest, was extra special in that he, my mother, and my godmother, Aunt Florence, were classmates at their local parish school. Ten of us deacons knelt in a semi-circle, priestly vestments folded neatly over our arms. As the Litany of the Saints began, we stretched out on the marble floor, face down in a sign of humility. Later, we extended our hands, palms up, to be consecrated by the Bishop who traced a diagonal cross over them using Sacred Chrism. Finally, Bishop Leibold layed his hands upon our heads, followed by a cadre of priests, many of whom had been our professors.
I’d more boldly share God’s Word with others, as expressed in the Scriptures and the sacraments. I’d dare to share more openly with them my own experiences of the spiritual journey in order to help them develop their unique spiritual gifts and a closer relationship with God. I’d proclaim more clearly that there is no “We” vs. “Them”, but only “Us”; that we need to accept one another regardless of any difference, to truly live the baptismal covenant. I’d be more adamant in encouraging resistance to attempts by anyone to exclude or marginalize any person because of their racial, creedal, or sexual differences; in guiding folks to focus outwardly on their local community and on not only people’s spiritual needs, but also on the day-to-day realities of their emotional, social, and physical needs. I’d hope to be more sensitive and honest in pointing out to people their rich God-given gifts, and to overcome laziness and fear in understanding our faith more fully.