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A Special Tribute

19 June 2009 – 19 June 2010

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
19 Jun 2009

They are our unsung heroes. Selfless, tireless, devoted and hard working, Sydney's 484 parish and religious priests support us in good times and in bad. They celebrate our marriages, baptise our babies and conduct funerals for our loved ones.

With their wise counsel and compassion, they console us in our grief, difficulties and struggles, offering us hope and bringing us closer to God.

Ministering to the Archdiocese of Sydney's 576,000 Catholics, our priests are also our missionaries, evangelists, teachers and educators. They play leading roles in our schools and universities. Some coach footie teams, others inspire us with their love and knowledge of music or art. Still others care for the forgotten, poor, lonely, disadvantaged or homeless. They offer hope and help to those incarcerated in our prisons, join our fighting forces as chaplains and offer comfort and a way forward for lost and confused teenagers who find themselves jobless and on the streets.

But above all, by celebrating Mass and the Blessed Sacrament, priests bring us to the heart of our spirituality and renew and strengthen our Faith.

Now with the start of the Year of the Priest on Friday, June 19, we finally have a chance to pay tribute to them. Not just to our own priests but to priests across the world.

"I see the Year of the Priest as a great opportunity for the Catholic community to acknowledge how much they appreciate the service of their priests. It's a chance to  celebrate all the good aspects of the priesthood and how vital the priestly ministry is for the Church," says Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Vatican's Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy goes even further, saying that the Church is proud of her priests, loves, honours and admires them, and recognises with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness to their life.

"Priests are important not only for what they do but also for who they are," he said shortly after Pope Benedict XVI announced in March this year that with the close of the Pauline Year, the Church would inaugurate its first-ever Year of the Priest.

"Sadly, it is true that at the present time some priests have been shown to have been involved in problematic and unfortunate situations," the Cardinal Claudio Hummes said, but pointed out that these tragic infractions have involved only a very small percentage of the clergy. "The majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity who invest their entire existence in the fulfillment of their vocation and mission, often through great personal sacrifice," he said.

The Holy Father in announcing the Year of the Priest during the Plenary Assembly at the Vatican on March 16, stressed that above all this special year was intended to "encourage priests in striving for spiritual perfection, on which the effectiveness of their ministry depends."

"Without priests there would be no Eucharist, no mission and no Church," Pope Benedict XVI said.

The start of the Year of the Priest coincides with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, and will be celebrated by the Pontiff in Rome with a special Vespers at St Peter's Basilica where the relics of the saintly Cure D'Ars have been brought for the occasion from their usual resting place in the small town of Ars, near Lyon.

St Jean Marie Vianney, known across the world as the Cure D'Ars, is the Patron Saint of Parish Priests and during the year which is the 150th anniversary of his death, the Holy Father will proclaim him Patron Saint for all the Priests of the World, most likely on St Jean's Feast Day, August 4..
As the Year of the Priest begins, special tributes to priests across the Archdiocese of Sydney are being planned. A Solemn Mass will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell later this year.

At the Seminary of the Good Shepherd at Homebush, where four Seminarians were ordained priests in April, a series of special "priests' gatherings" will be held over the next 12 months. The much admired, now retired, Cardinal Edward Cassidy will open the series with a talk on "A man of God and a man of the Church" on August 4.

Ordained as a priest after studying at St Patrick's Seminary at Manly, Cardinal Cassidy spent a time in Wagga Wagga as a parish priest before being sent to Rome to study Canon law. Joining the Vatican's vast diplomatic corps, he later became President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, President of the Holy See's Committee for Religious Relations with the Jews and President of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. The Vatican's longtime Deputy Secretary of State, Cardinal Cassidy was a close associate of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Others speakers at the Seminary's "Priests' Gatherings" include Father Ed Travis, Spiritual Director at the Seminary; Archbishop Mark Coleridge of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn; Bishop Kevin Manning from the Diocese of Parramatta; Bishop Timothy Costelloe, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and Sister M. Isabell Naumann from the Pontifical Council of Culture. Their talks will be open to all priests across Australia as well as seminarians.

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