WYNNEWOOD – Cardinal Justin Rigali presided at the first archdiocesan novena of Holy Hours for priests at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, at the Chapel of St. Martin of Tours at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

In conjunction with the universal Church’s celebration of the Year of the Priest, priests across the Archdiocese are praying together at various churches throughout the Archdiocese in a novena of first Fridays.

“The beautiful thing is that it takes place on the first Friday,” said the Cardinal. As such, the Holy Hour brings together the devotion to the Sacred Heart with the devotion to the Eucharist.

“We remember all our brother priests, all the seminarians of the Church and offer up our praise together to the Heart of Jesus,” he said.

“The Eucharist is the manifestation of the love of the Sacred Heart and the Sacred Heart is the love of the Blessed Trinity,” added the Cardinal.

The lay faithful of the Archdiocese are invited to unite in the cause either by attending the Holy Hours or through their private prayers, said the Year of the Priest committee chair, Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, regional vicar for Montgomery County and pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Bala Cynwyd.

Msgr. Joseph G. Prior, rector of St. Charles Seminary, said the seminary community was honored to host the first of the Holy Hours. Scheduling the first of the Holy Hours at St. Charles was an appropriate way for the seminarians to begin the academic year, he added.

He believes the Holy Hour will inspire the seminarians and deepen their understanding, appreciation and love for the priesthood. And because the Year of the Priest is filled with a number of events, there will be many aspects of the priesthood for the seminarians to reflect upon. “They’re going to be thinking about this all through the year,” added the rector. “I think it will be a good year for them.”

The Holy Hour also carried a special significance to the transitional deacons at St. Charles who are scheduled to be ordained priests next May.

Among them is Deacon James DeGrassa, a fourth theology seminarian whose home parish is St. Madeline in Ridley Park, Delaware County. “I think it’s awesome that I get to, hopefully, be ordained in the Year of the Priest,” he said.

“I’m really going to try to keep the Year of the Priest as my focus and to pray to St. John Vianney for the graces needed to continue on,” added Deacon DeGrassa.

Cardinal Rigali declared St. John Vianney the fourth secondary patron of St. Charles Seminary on Aug. 31. As the Year of the Priest commemorates the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, Pope Benedict XVI has named him the patron of all the world’s priests.

During the Holy Hour, Deacon Degrassa also prayed for an increase in vocations to the priesthood. “So often we talk about vocations, but it’s always important to listen in prayer, to hear God’s voice,” he said.

Addisalem Mekonnen, a third college seminarian whose home parish is St. Francis De Sales in Southwest Philadelphia, was also grateful for the Holy Hour. “Cardinal Rigali was teaching us that it’s important to make a Holy Hour with our Lord. As we read the Gospel, we understand this is what our Lord really asks of us.”

Mekonnen believed the Holy Hour would help him “to always put Christ first and to receive graces in order to be faithful to my duties as a seminarian.”

The U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has set up a web site to mark the year,

To view the calendar of events for the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s celebration, visit the archdiocesan web site,, then click the icon “Year of the Priest,” located at the top of the page.

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