“The way we act as human beings impacts our priestly life and ministry,” Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens told 209 participants at a convocation of priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia April 29 to May 1 in Hershey, Pa. The meeting’s theme was “Healthy Priests: Mind-Body-Spirit.”
Gathered at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, the priests heard the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis present the keynote address, “How Human and Spiritual Growth Happen Together.”
Encouraging priests to see themselves as God sees them, Bishop Cozzens said the Lord “wants us to understand what it means to abide in him.” The bishop asked, “Do you know that experience? It happens when our hearts are connected to him. If we don’t abide in him,” he cautioned, “we end up burning out.”
Mindful of the stress and obstacles that occur in priestly life and ministry, Bishop Cozzens advised priests to seek comfort and consolation in “God’s mercy…. We have to grow and surrender in response to God’s grace.”
“How do I remain in him in my struggles?” he asked. “Am I able to remain and abide in the Lord in the midst of those trials?”
One way of addressing human and spiritual growth “is to talk about real purification,” Bishop Cozzens said, offering a “practical way of praying through difficulties.”
“Prayer life and self-knowledge are central” to the “process of surrender,” he insisted, “in order to achieve peace of heart.” Acknowledge, relate, receive and respond are “four practical steps to come to this surrender.”
Bishop Cozzens recommended acknowledging the struggle, relating it to God, receiving God’s desire to abide with and console the priest, and respond by reflecting on God’s presence.
Besides the bishop’s talk, a team of speakers from St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, presented sessions focused on spiritual, physical and emotional well-being.
The sessions included “Spirituality: Fuel for the Mind and Body” by Very Rev. James A. Flavin, president emeritus of St. John Vianney; “Emotions, Relationships and Ministry” by James Coupe, clinical director; “The Starting Line: Creating a Pathway to Physical Wellness” by David Shellenberger, president; and “The Synergy of Mind, Body, Spirit” by Mariette Danilo, director of education.
A Catholic, non-profit organization, St. John Vianney Center was founded in 1946 and is the longest running, internationally renowned behavioral health facility in North America for clergy and religious.
Father Quindlen is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Plymouth Meeting.
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