For Msgr. Michael Magee, the two days spent in Hershey, Pa. with 380 other priests was a prayerful time, a learning experience and an all-too-rare chance for diocesan clergy to relax and enjoy one another’s company.
The occasion, held May 14-16, was the second Convocation for Priests, scheduled in anticipation of a “Year of Faith,” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, which begins Oct. 16 this year and ends Nov. 24, 2013.
The “Year of Faith” dovetails with Archbishop Charles Chaput’s recent call for priests to emphasize the teachings of the Bible, and with the convocation theme, “Priests as Preachers and Teachers,” said Msgr. Magee, chair of the Systematic Theology Department, associate professor of Systematic Theology, and associate professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Charles Seminary.
Msgr. Magee said the “Year of Faith” and the focus on Scripture is part of what the Church is calling the “New Evangelization.”
“It’s the same message heralded via different methods, including the media,” he said. “We’re looking for the best way to present the message.”
He added that Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, who was the keynote speaker, had an impact that went deeper than the words that inspired his listeners.
“It was nice to see someone of the stature of a cardinal whose actions in fostering evangelization set an example of being a good priest who also meditates on the Word,” Msgr. Magee said.
Cardinal Collins urged the priests to not just read Scripture but to live it “head, heart and hands.” This, the Cardinal said, would lead to a deeper spiritual life and foster hope, the necessary ingredient to envisioning a “positive future.”
Father Charles Zlock, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Philadelphia, said Cardinal Collins emphasized that the Bible serves as not only a spiritual enrichment tool for priests, but also provides the basic tenets from which the clergy can instruct the faithful.
“A lot of pastors are already using the Great Adventure Series (a Catholic Bible learning series) to introduce Catholics to Scripture,” said Father Zlock, who also writes a blog at http://frzlock.com/.
Father Zlock, who wrote about Cardinal Collins’ presentation on his blog, noted that the Cardinal urged priests to better “feed your soul and thus feed the people” by knowing the Word and knowing the people. For the laity to serve the role as minister to others, the Cardinal said it is also important to “know the Word” and “know yourself.”
The convocation was also the first opportunity for Archbishop Charles Chaput to meet with such a large number of archdiocesan priests, said Father Dennis Gill, director of the Office for Divine Liturgy.
The Archbishop celebrated the opening Mass and prayed with the priests during the three-day event, and led a question-and-answer session, which was a very important part of the convocation, he said.
“The question and answer time served to give the Archbishop the opportunity to know his priests, and for the priests to get to know him,” said Father Gill, who was responsible for planning liturgies during the convocation.
The first convocation for priests held in 2010 was initiated by Cardinal Justin Rigali in preparation for the Year of the Priest.