Website Launches Campaign for Priests
ATLANTA — In response to the bad publicity priests have received in recent years through the sexual sins of a few, lay people throughout the world are offering their priests eternal gifts of gratitude for the good that they do.
And many of them are using a Eucharistic-adoration and letter-writing campaign sponsored by the Web site Vocation.com.
The six-month program, called “The Hands That Bring Us Christ,” began May 2 and ends Oct. 16, the anniversary of Pope John Paul II's election to the papacy.
Participants report the time they spend before the Blessed Sacrament praying for priests, and the total number of hours is logged daily and displayed on the Web site. Those who know the e-mail address of a priest also can send a personal message to him expressing thanks and telling him of the adoration effort.
The idea has received high praise from priests who have contacted the Web site.
“Wonderful!” wrote Father Joseph Noonan, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Chicago. “I am very happy to read about your effort for adoration and prayer for the priesthood and vocations. Keep up the splendid work.”
Father John Andersen, an Australian missionary serving villagers on the banks of the Amazon River in Peru, reported that his parish holds an hour of adoration for priests every Thursday evening. He asked that this hour be added weekly to the Web site log.
The adoration-for-priests campaign is the second Eucharistic project hosted by Vocation.com, which is sponsored by the Legion-aries of Christ and supported by the congregation's lay movement, Regnum Christi. Last year the Web site logged 125,000 hours of adoration in thanksgiving for John Paul's 25th anniversary as Pope. The initial goal was 100,000 hours.
In January, Daniel Gonzales, national director of Vocation.com, and his wife, Jackie, the site's operations director, presented a leather-bound report of the adoration effort to the Pope in a private audience at the Vatican. The report, in the form of a spiritual bouquet, listed the number of hours and the 41 countries represented by the campaign's participants.
“If this year's adoration campaign gets the same response as last year's, it will be a huge success,” Gonzales said. “Thus far we're getting a lot of positive feedback. The idea behind the campaign was born out of a need to support and thank priests and bishops, who have had their reputation tarnished in recent years. We want to express thanks to those who have remained faithful and serve us so well.”
Legionary seminarian Branigan Sherman, who helps maintain the Web site, said the campaign seeks “to counter what has been going on with the image of the priest and let priests know that there is tremendous support for them.”
Brother Sherman, who is preparing for the priesthood, added, “We are finding that so many lay people just want to say thank you to a priest who helped them.”
The Web site is available in English, Spanish, Italian and French. It also sends out a regular e-mail newsletter, offers information on vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and posts the vocation stories of individual priests and religious sisters. Interactive features allow visitors to ask questions about vocations that are answered by Father Bannon.
Father Anthony Bannon, North American territorial director of the Legionaries of Christ, said the program highlights the positive image priests have among their people. “The vast majority of Catholics love, respect and are grateful to their priests,” he said. “They are aware of the great sacrifice celibacy is, that their priests chose it and are faithful to it because they love their people, and this campaign is to let the priests know this, concretely.”
The program may also have a good effect on vocations, Father Bannon added, “by helping the lay people to reflect on the gift that their pastors are for them, and to move them to be generous: parents in fostering and encouraging vocations in their own children, and young men in considering the possibility that God may be calling them to this same kind of love and service. Perhaps, also, it may well encourage some pastors to renewed confidence in preaching and cultivating vocations.”
Karen Perez, whose son Victor is a seminarian for the Galveston-Houston Diocese in Texas, devoted an hour of adoration each for the priests who have influenced her son's vocation, including Father Clint Ressler, vocations director for the diocese.
“I just want to thank you for saying Yes to God's call to be the hands of Christ,” she wrote to Father Ressler. “Your example is an encouragement to young men who are hearing God's call. Victor really looks up to you.”
Father Ressler wrote back to her: “Your message this morning creates in me a real and profound sense of gratitude. A gratitude that begins with you and quickly spreads to all the blessings I have received from God and so many of his children. I am most richly blessed. I pray so hard that many more men and women will find their vocation and live it courageously. Mine has been the doorway to such blessings that I can scarcely comprehend it. God is so good.”
“When I read about the adoration effort, I said that this was a perfect way to say thank you to the priests who mean so much in our lives,” Perez told the Register.
The interactive nature of the Web site has created a network for vocations.
Father Joseph Anthony Pereira posted a message suggesting something priests can do in response to the adoration campaign.
“As our beautiful and charitable people offer all of these adorations for us, maybe we, too, can take their great and holy example” and offer a weekly hour of adoration “for all the mothers and fathers of priests and seminarians,” he wrote.
Without married couples, he noted, “we cannot have holy, consecrated priests! There will be so much grace for the Church and the world by our joint adorations.”
Stephen Vincent writes from Wallingford, Connecticut.
- July 25-31, 2004