By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
WYNCOTE – How better for a school to observe the Year of the Priest than to invite priest-alumni back for a concelebrated Mass?
That’s what La Salle College High School did April 22. Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas was the principal celebrant joined by 10 priest-alumni in concelebration. Especially noteworthy among the group were Msgrs. Ignatius Murray ’48; Joseph Murray ’51; and Thomas Murray ’59; three priests and blood brothers whose childhood home must have surely been almost a minor seminary.
In his homily Bishop Thomas told the students the priests “are proud to be alumni of La Salle, that’s why they are here this morning, and they are proud to be priests. I am certain if we asked them they would say here in this high school with the (Christian) Brothers, the faculty and their fellow students, they saw Jesus. Today we are blessed that they came for this Mass, and for the celebration of the priesthood at La Salle, that you might see that men of La Salle become priests.”
Through the day’s celebration of the priesthood, Bishop Thomas said, “We ask for the grace to see with our minds and hearts Jesus in the priesthood, Jesus in the person of priests and Jesus in some of the men in this room who may well have the vocation Jesus is calling them to.”
Immediately following the Mass, De La Salle Christian Brother Richard Kestler, the school’s president, bestowed La Salle’s annual President’s Medal on the Murray brothers amid enthusiastic and sustained cheers from the student body.
“These three men are role models, and I want to thank them for the combined 144 years they have rendered to their Church and to their God,” Brother Richard said.
In comments on behalf of the three, Msgr. Ignatius Murray told the students he and his brothers were members of a family with three generations of La Salle men. Their father and a nephew are also graduates of La Salle College High School, an institution that traces back to 1858.
“We have that great tradition of great service,” Msgr. Murray said. “I know of few groups in the Church today who sacrifice their life as do the Christian Brothers.”
He cited the tremendous support he received from his advisor, Brother David, and from other faculty members when he was considering entering the seminary as a student.
“We need brothers and priests as well as tremendous married people,” Msgr. Murray said. He advised the students, as they ponder their own future to ask themselves, “What does Jesus want me to do? If you ask that question every day and put the question in the forefront of your thinking and prayers, you will be as happy as we are today.”
Other priest-alumni who came back to concelebrate the Mass were Msgr. John Boland ’46; Father Victor Eschbach ’62; Msgr. Joseph Garvin ’65; Father Francis Kelly ’47; Father Gerald Ronan ’66 and Father Peter Welsh ’68.
Serving as Master of Ceremony at the Mass was Father Anthony Janton ’69, who, in addition to his archdiocesan duties, has served for years as the school’s chaplain. His service was officially recognized in 2007 when he was given the honor of being named a Christian Brothers Affiliate.
He was further honored at this ceremony through an official commendation by the Board of Trustees as well as a gift from the students.
“As I have said time and time again, whatever I can do for you here at La Salle brings life to my priesthood and certainly life to my vocation,” Father Janton told the gathering.
Over its century and a half of existence La Salle has educated well over 100 future priests, 93 of whom were listed in the program and 48 of whom are known to be living, according to Brother Richard. In addition, the school produced 65 men who became Christian Brothers.
As to whether some of the current students will answer the call as priests or brothers, student council president Bill Begley believes they will. “I think it’s just a matter of who is going to heed the call, to have the guts to step forward to be one of them,” he said.
The morning ceremony ended with Bishop Thomas formally blessing the school’s new campus ministry meeting room and retreat area, made possible through a bequest from Father John P. Gutekunst ’72, who died in 2007.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.