“The Catholic Church needs priests.”
“The Catholic Church needs good priests.”
“The Catholic Church needs holy priests.”
An increase of priests is a common petition to God among Catholics throughout the world and particularly in a mission diocese such as our own. As I continue my journey of discerning a priestly vocation, I have realized our need is not simply for a man with a black shirt and white collar, but rather a joyful and humble servant who pursues a life of holiness for him and the souls entrusted to his care.
In my opinion, 2017 has been the most important year for Catholics in the United States to reflect on holy witnesses to the priesthood. In the first 240 years of our nation’s history, not one American-born priest had been beatified by the Church and given the title “Blessed” on the journey to canonization.
Then, 2017 happened.
In just the last three months, Holy Mother Church has gifted the United States with two Blessed priests in Frs. Stanley Rother and Solanus Casey.
Fr. Rother was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in 1963 and assigned to a mission parish in a rural area of southwest Guatemala in 1968. He served faithfully, even though he was deserted by his brother priests and was under constant persecution. In his 13th year of ministry to the Guatemalan people, militants embroiled in the country’s civil war martyred Rother in his parish rectory.
The martyr-witness of Fr. Rother has bore astounding fruit for the Church in Guatemala. The parish of Santiago Atitlan, where Fr. Rother was martyred, had never in 434 years seen a parishioner be ordained to the priesthood. Since Rother’s blood was spilled on the rectory floor, nine parishioners have been ordained priests and seven more men are in seminary formation.
Fr. Solanus Casey is likely known to many of our readers. As a child and young adult, Casey lived near Hudson and in Superior prior to entering religious life as a Capuchin Franciscan. Casey also began his studies for priestly formation here at St. Francis de Sales seminary, roaming the same halls that my brother seminarians and I walk every day. Solanus gave his life totally to Jesus Christ, and through an intense love of the Eucharist and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, healed and interceded for thousands who sought his counsel as the doorkeeper of several Capuchin monasteries. Throughout his 60 years of ministry as a Capuchin, Casey gained renown by locals of all ages and faiths as “the holy priest.”
More than 20,000 people visited Fr. Casey’s body prior to his funeral in 1957, and 60 years later, more than 60,000 faithful filled Ford Field in Detroit for the Mass of Beatification Nov. 18. I, along with my brother seminarians and pilgrims from St. Patrick parish in Hudson and others from the diocese, united in joyful praise and adoration to celebrate a glorious occasion for the Church.
When we look at the impact of the saintly lives of these men, one fact is clear. Many souls encountered the love of Jesus Christ and His Church through the holy priestly lives of Stanley and Solanus. It was the holy witness of these priests that led many to encounter Jesus Christ, His Church, His Sacraments, and perhaps even now the eternal banquet of Heaven.
The call of every Christian is to sanctity. In a special way, our Catholic priests enter into that call through a unique configuration to the life of Christ. As you finish reading this article, I invite you to pray for the men who are now serving as priests in the Diocese of Superior. Thank God for their “yes” to serve His Church and ask God for abundant blessings upon them, that they might be beacons of holiness which lead us to enjoy eternity with God in heaven.
Bl. Stanley Rother and Bl. Solanus Casey, pray for us.
Tracy is a seminarian for the Diocese of Superior. He can be reached at ude.s1553010296fs@yc1553010296artd1553010296.