By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer
and Catholic News Service

The universal Church’s celebration of the Year of the Priest closed Friday, June 11, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The day before, Msgr. William J. Lynn, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, Chester County, and Father Brian M. Kean, a parochial vicar there, received a pleasant surprise from the parish’s elementary school community.

They were honored with a slide presentation that featured pictures from their childhood to the present day, including sacraments received. In addition, student “actors” depicted how each answered the call to the priesthood.

Family members of both priests assisted with the surprise and were present at the early afternoon assembly, which was held in the church.{{more}}

“I was very humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring from the students, our faculty and parents,” Msgr. Lynn said.

“It was obvious they had put much work into it and have a deep respect and love for the priesthood.

“We are blessed to be at St. Joseph,” he said. “Our parishioners have a strong regard for the priesthood and are very supportive of us in our ministry to them. They affirm us each day in our priesthood by their faithfulness and devotion to the Eucharist.”

Msgr. Lynn was ordained a priest in 1976. Before assuming the pastorate of St. Joseph Parish in 2004, he served as the Archdiocese’s Secretary for Clergy.

Father Kean, ordained a priest in 2008, said the presentation was humbling.

“St. Joseph School is a faith-filled and Christ-centered Catholic elementary school, and it is such a great privilege to be so supported and encouraged in my priesthood by the school community.

“I am grateful for how welcoming and supportive Sister Catherine Masino, I.H.M., our principal, and the faculty are to a priestly presence in the school. I am blessed by the day-to-day interactions with students. St. Joseph School is a great joy and blessing in my priesthood.”

This past year, Cardinal Rigali called on area Catholics to participate in events associated with the archdiocesan celebration of the Year of the Priest, which he named, “Holy Priests for a Holy People.”

The Cardinal asked priests to mark the closing of the Year of the Priest on June 11 with a spiritual offering of Masses and prayers in the parishes, through a daylong period of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or a Eucharistic Holy Hour of prayer for priests and priestly vocations.

On the same date, the Cardinal represented the priests of the Archdiocese at a Year of the Priest closing Mass Pope Benedict XVI celebrated at the Vatican.

Concelebrating Mass June 11 with some 15,000 priests, Pope Benedict said the Year of the Priest could have been ruined by the clerical abuse scandal, but instead became a “summons to purification” in the Church.

Pope said that “the enemy,” Satan, wants to drive God out of the world and opposes those who work to ensure that God is at the side of every man and woman, especially in times of trouble.

“And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite,” the Pope said in his homily.

He said the Catholic Church begs forgiveness from God and “from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again.”

In admitting men to the seminary and priesthood, he said, “we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers.”

The priests, 80 cardinals and 350 bishops and archbishops, who were sitting under the sun in St. Peter’s Square, signaled their agreement with the Pope’s statement by applauding.

The Vatican said that with so many priests vested for Mass and reciting together the key words of the Eucharistic prayer with their hands extended toward the altar, the liturgy marked the largest concelebration ever held at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI also told the priests that it is impossible for them not to rejoice that God has given them the gift of being able “to set God’s table for men and women, to give them His Body and his Blood, to offer them the precious gift of his very Presence.”

The Year of the Priest coincided with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests whom Pope Benedict has declared the patron of all priests.

St. John Vianney is widely known to Catholics as the Curé (parish priest) of Ars, who won over the hearts of his villagers in France by visiting with them, teaching them about God and reconciling people to the Lord in the confessional.

During the liturgy, Pope Benedict used a chalice that belonged to the saint and was brought to Rome from the saint’s former parish in Ars.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Benedict knelt before an icon of Mary and led the priests in consecrating themselves to her “maternal heart in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s will.”

Asking her intervention in calling forth the Holy Spirit to transform them, they prayed that the Church would be “renewed by priests who are holy.”

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