By Mary Woodward
The month of June has been a month of jubilee celebrations for clergy and religious throughout the diocese and country. Women religious celebrating special anniversaries are profiled on page seven of this edition of Mississippi Catholic. Celebrations for these jubilarians were held at province homes in Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin. We congratulate and thank these remarkable women for their commitment to the consecrated life.
From June 3 until June 18 five diocesan priests celebrated Masses of Thanksgiving and were honored by family and friends for a combined 265 years of service in the vineyard.
On June 9, Father Frank Corcoran, who is retired and living in Greenville, celebrated 60 years of priestly life. Msgr. Michael Flannery, pastor of Madison St. Francis Parish; Father David O’Connor, pastor of Natchez Assumption Parish and St. Mary Basilica; and Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino celebrated 50 years of priestly life June 3, 6, and 18, respectively. On June 10, Father Robert Dore of Columbus Annuciation marked 25 years of ordination.
All of the celebrations honored the gift of priesthood both ministerial and the “common priesthood of the faithful.” Each observance highlighted the life of the ordained within the life of the church and his service to the presbyterate as well as the priestly life.
Both ordained and laity participate in the priesthood of the church. In his homily on June 6, Bishop Latino focused on the dignity of the priesthood and defined its dimensions using the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. the faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood.” (CCC #1546)
The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace – a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit – the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. the ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders. (CCC #1547)
Although each celebration was one evening in the life of the church. Each life of service honored is a witness to the building up of God’s Kingdom. Each of these lives is a testimony to the church’s mission in the world to bring the Good News to all, especially those who are marginalized, oppressed, wounded and alone.
We give thanks to Almighty God for the gift of priesthood and the men who carry out the office.