With gratitude for all the years

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A few years ago, The Pilot staff agreed that it might be a good idea to gather all the articles for the "new senior priests" into one section, to have it coincide with the annual "Celebration of Priesthood" event in September conducted by Clergy Fund offices, and to invite the parishes and friends of the "seniores novi" to join in our salute.

We were delighted, but not surprised, by the response from all.

It was gratitude that marked all those involved in this now annual tribute.

Parishioners from years gone by, as well as those from more recent assignments, drop notes to us and the newly retired. Parishes sponsor thank you's in this special section. And our staff pen heartfelt articles about these men who have served for so long and so well.

One of my privileges has been to serve as the scribe for these retirement biographies. As the years go by, I realize how many of these priests I know, some better than others, but all have a story that should be told to the archdiocese and beyond. Stories that constitute a significant contribution to the history of our venerable archdiocese.

In this section, you will meet priests you never knew or about whom you never heard a word, probably because they were not assigned to your parish or even nearby. Some you might recall vaguely simply because years do that or because in the regular round of priestly transfers one or another of us follows the other, and leaves a more recent memory or appreciation for priestly ministry.

Every one of these priests is responsible for baptisms, first communions, anointing of the sick, and celebrations of weddings and funerals for families across the archdiocese. They provided a ready ear for problems, perhaps a bit of sound advice, or a word of encouragement. They likely were at all kinds of events for you, your children, and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, seeing the "thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat" on faces, and cheering them on in spite of odds.

Not infrequently I tell the cardinal, the auxiliary bishops, and our priests that I have a privileged perch. I get to hear from parishioners about these priests, and not only these, but many others about some aspect of their priestly service. It is unsolicited but it is uplifting for this scribe.

This year, I invited other staff writers to give a try at some of the biographies. My thought was that different styles of writing and different ears would provide a variety of reports for our readers. I told them that they would probably have to "beg" the priests whom they called to talk because most priests simply figure "I am doing what I was ordained to do" and they do not think of themselves as especially notable or "newsworthy." But, they are.

Recently, I celebrated the funeral Mass of one of the religious sisters here in the archdiocese. After the funeral Mass, I went to the cemetery for the committal services. Arriving before the procession, I drove up to the grounds crew and keepers who worked the cemetery, told them I was here for Sister's Committal and proceeded to drive closer to the graveside to await the body, family, and the sisters from her congregation. As I started to drive, I heard, "Hey, Father." I stopped and looked back and heard, "Thanks for being a priest." It was good to hear. It reminded me of all kinds of things that I and all of us priests -- that word also includes bishops -- are supposed to be, but more how much we still mean to so many of God's people.

It is with that little background that I say, in the name of all of us here at The Pilot and I suspect in the names of our readers and subscribers and advertisers and the staff of the Clergy Trust, to these "new senior priests": "Father, thanks for being a priest."