Being a priest is “one of the most amazing things in the world” and “one of the hardest,” Father Mark Toups told 240 priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at their Spring Convocation, May 9-11, encouraging them to “be men of hope.”

The theme for the gathering held at a lodge in Hershey, Pa. was “Discerning our Path of Hope Together.”

Priestly identity needs to be “rooted in hope” that is “real, practical and personal,” Father Toups emphasized in his keynote address, “Remaining Rooted in Our Priestly Identity.”

“How do we remain rooted in priestly identity?” he asked. “By placing our trust in God’s promises and relying not on our own strength — especially under trial.”

Moving from crisis to hope, he insisted, “affords us joy even under trial.”

“We have to choose to choose,” he said, with the assurance that “hope has a name. His name is Jesus Christ.”

Father Toups is a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux where he serves as vicar general and pastor of Our Lady of the Isle in Grand Isle, Louisiana. He is also an adjunct faculty member for the Institute for Priestly Formation and the author of “Oremus: A Catholic Guide to Prayer” published by Ascension Press.

Daniel J. Cellucci, chief executive officer of Catholic Leadership Institute in Malvern, presented conferences on the theme “Building Hope in Priestly Ministry and Building Hope in Parish Life.”

CLI is an apostolate providing leadership training and consulting to clergy, religious and lay leaders in more than 100 dioceses nationwide, and at the North American College, the seminary for priestly students from the U.S. in Rome.

With more than 25 years of field experience, Cellucci and his team oversee the organization’s marketing and services based on their extensive research and data gathering.

At the Fall Workshop for Priests last October, Cellucci presented CLI’s initiative, “Called for More: A New Look at Thriving in Priestly Ministry.”

“What are your hopes or objectives?” Cellucci asked the priests during his conference in Hershey. “Where are you in your spiritual fatherhood right now? Why?”

“The important thing is where you are right now,” he said. “The most important thing you bring to your priestly ministry is your heart.”

“Are you aware and do you care?” Cellucci asked during his conference on “Building Hope in Parish Life.”

Priests were invited to participate in discussions based on a booklet prepared by CLI specifically designed for the Spring Convocation and distributed to each priest. Topics included strengths, opportunities and supports for ongoing formation and continual growth.

In his homily at Mass for the group on May 10, Archbishop Nelson Perez told the auxiliary bishops and priests concelebrating, “In many ways we are the rock on which the Church of Philadelphia continues to be built … with a spirit of love in our hearts.

“We’re all shepherds, but we’re also sheep,” he said. “What is the Lord saying to you today in your heart? Are you able to hear the voice of the shepherd?

“Allow the shepherd to speak to us,” he urged the priests.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, also participated in the gathering.

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Father Quindlen is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Plymouth Meeting.