By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Pope Benedict XVI has declared the Year of the Priest June 19, 2009, through June 19, 2010.

Cardinal Justin Rigali is calling on area Catholics to participate in the archdiocesan celebration, which he has named, “Holy Priests for a Holy People.”

“Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called for this year of grace for the whole Church as a new opportunity for priests to grow in holiness and live more fully united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and for all the members of the Church to recall the essential role of priests among us and in society,” the Cardinal said in a letter to the faithful.

Throughout the year, Catholics across the Archdiocese will have plenty of opportunities to pray for and with priests, to thank them for answering the call to serve the Church and to explore the rich history of the role of the priest as established by Jesus Christ.

A theater production about the patron saint of parish priests, St. John Vianney, a lecture series on the ministry and life of the Catholic priest, a concert of sacred music sung by priests and, for children, a priest-themed art contest and letter-writing campaign are among the numerous events planned for the year.

But the primary way to participate in the Year of the Priest is through prayer, said the Cardinal. “Pray for priests. Pray for priests as they announce God’s holy Word and celebrate the sacraments. Pray for their holiness.”

An archdiocesan Prayer for Priests is being made available in parishes, schools, religious education programs and other institutions.

“I invite you to pray this prayer as families, in parish groups and alone,” the Cardinal said. “I especially encourage praying for priests in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament,” he added.

During the year, the Pope is granting priests and the faithful opportunities to receive a plenary indulgence, which is the remission before God of the temporal punishment for sins.

The rosary will be prayed in every parish and school on Wednesday, Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, for the benefit of priests, priestly vocations and to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Cardinal Rigail’s installation as Archbishop of Philadelphia.

The Year of the Priest begins and concludes on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a day of prayer for the sanctification of all priests. For the yearlong celebration in the Archdiocese, the Cardinal has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas as the episcopal chair and, as committee chair, Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, the regional vicar for Montgomery County and pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Bala Cynwyd.

As the year commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Aug. 4 death of St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, also known as St. John Vianney, the Pope is designating St. John Vianney the patron saint of all the world’s priests.

A relic of St. John Vianney will travel to all 269 parishes of the Archdiocese throughout the year, allowing the faithful ample opportunities for veneration.

A live, dramatic theater production chronicling the life of St. John Vianney will be presented five times during the first week of Advent.

Priest scholars will conduct a series of lectures about the priesthood for the general public in February and March at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. The series is sponsored by the seminary’s John Cardinal Krol Chair of Moral Theology.

The faithful are invited to the chrism Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia on Holy Thursday morning, April 1, 2010. At the annual Mass concelebrated by the Cardinal and the priests of the Archdiocese, the Cardinal consecrates the chrism and blesses oils for sacramental use throughout the Archdiocese for the coming year.

A concert of sacred music sung by priests is planned for the end of Lent.

Cardinal Rigali is calling all diocesan priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese to a special convocation May 10-12, 2010, in Hershey, Pa., Diocese of Harrisburg. The assembly will provide priests the opportunity to spend time with the Cardinal in prayer, in the celebration of the Eucharist and in priestly fraternity.

Planned in accord with the direction of the Holy Father, the convocation will assist priests in their efforts to grow in priestly virtue and holiness.

To enable the diocesan priests to attend, religious priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese will be asked to assist in parishes and institutions across the Archdiocese throughout the three-day period.

A holy hour following 24-hour Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in each of the six vicariates on June 11 will serve as the closing event for the Year of the Priest in the Archdiocese.

The Pope will open the special year by celebrating a vespers service at the Vatican with the relics of St. John Vianney. He will close the celebrations during a World Meeting of Priests in St. Peter’s Square.

The priests of the Philadelphia Archdiocese will make a pilgrimage to Rome for the closing of the year June 16-23, 2010.

The U.S. bishops’ conference has set up a web site to mark the year, Resources of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia may be viewed at

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or