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Year for Priests: pilgrims gather in Rome

Year for Priests Pilgrimage
The pilgrims celebrate Mass in Ars, in the crypt below the Basilica of St John Vianney.

In June this year, four priests from the Diocese of Parramatta journeyed to Rome for the closing of the Year for Priests celebrations with Pope Benedict XVI.

Fr Luis Fernando Montano Rodriguez MG, Parish Priest of St Monica's in North Parramatta, made the pilgrimage with fellow Parramatta priests Rev Edmund Kenny, Rev Gerry Nworie, and Rev George O'Mara.

Fr Fernando’s journal reveals a journey of faith, love and inspiration.

I am so happy to be home after my short pilgrimage to Europe for the closing ceremony of the Year for Priests in St Peter’s Square.

The pilgrimage was mainly to three places: Paray le Monial, Ars and Rome. Our group consisted of a dozen priests from Sydney and Parramatta, with Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous our group leader.

After a long flight, we arrive in Paray le Monial for the first stop in our pilgrimage. Paray le Monial is the site of the apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th Century.

One of the main spiritual insights I will keep from this place are the words that the Sacred Heart said to St Margaret during the octave of Corpus Christi, 1675.

This is when the vision known as the ‘great apparition’ reportedly took place, where Jesus said: “Behold the Heart that has so loved men … instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude ...”

The second stop in our journey was Ars, the little village where St John Baptist Marie Vianney lived in the 1800s. Known as the Cure of Ars, John Vianney is the patron saint of priests.

It is still a very small place, its main feature the Basilica of St John Vianney. During our time there, we prayed for our parish communities, for our ministry, for the people who asked for our prayers in these holy places, for seminarians in formation, for priests in doubt or troubles. It was an inspiring moment.

Full of energy and enthusiasm, we arrived in Rome! The congress was set to be a memorable occasion as more than 10,000 priests were registered.

On the Thursday evening, we had a vigil with the Holy Father. Spirits rose as the time drew closer to see the Pope. He finally came out in the Popemobile and made the traditional round of St Peter’s Square … with all the media and the bad publicity priests had received in the past few months, it was the time for us to show our love for the Church and the Holy Father.

As the camera made a close-up of him, we could see a tear in the Pope’s eye. And when it came time for him to speak, he spoke from the heart: how the priesthood is a vocation, not a career.

He spoke of the importance of a celibate life as a sign of the life to come – and the necessity of testimony in times like these, when the priesthood has been challenged by the recent scandals in different parts of the world.

The following day was the big day – the closing of the Year for Priests on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Very early in the morning, 15,000 priests were gathering outside St Peter’s Square for the big celebration.

The Mass was very solemn and the homily inspirational: it will be remembered as the homily when the Pope said “the priesthood is a gift from the Heart of Christ”.

At the end of the Mass, the Pope made an act of consecration of the priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A beautiful prayer that we all said kneeling down under the Roman heat, but with true devotion, praying not only for our own priesthood but also for all our brothers in the priesthood, especially those most in need of our prayers.

The Holy Father reminded us that even though the Year for Priests had come to a close, the meditation and the insights about priesthood need to continue always.

Hopefully, the Sacred Heart of Jesus will inspire many young men to follow Him more closely.

« Return to Catholic Outlook August 2010