Convocation of Priests offers time for priestly fraternity and shared prayer
Nov 8, 2019
To those whom they minister to, they are known as “Father.” But from Nov. 5-7, nearly 200 priests of the Archdiocese of Washington assembled as brothers at the archdiocese’s Convocation of Priests.
Priests interviewed afterward said the gathering at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge, Maryland, which is held every two years, offered them a special time to pray together, reflect on their priesthood, share the challenges they face and enjoy each others’ company.
Msgr. Raymond East, the pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington, D.C., said the convocation is a time when the archdiocese’s priests “get really deep into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to be called to the priesthood... That deep sense of a shared priesthood is something that’s so powerful.”
Another pastor, Father Lee Fangmeyer of Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Maryland, noted the gathering fosters unity among priests of the archdiocese. “It a really great opportunity for us to come together. We do have a sense of unity, (even though) we’re all different.”
He added that on a personal level, “It’s so great to recognize we are brothers. We are not alone. We are not isolated. We have a common call in Jesus. We can come together to be with Him and our bishops. It’s an occasion for us to be together as brothers and recognize the One who calls us. We are here with Him.”
That presence with Jesus is tangible, he said, as priests pray together at Holy Hour and Eucharistic Adoration. “We all come to it,” he said.
That aspect of the gathering was also very moving to Father Carter Griffin, the rector of the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary, who said, “Seeing priests from every kind of ministry and every age praying before the Blessed Sacrament together – I found that to be a powerful witness to me and a beautiful sign of the brotherhood we share together and with the Lord.”
Father Griffin, who in his role as director of ongoing formation for priests helped to organize the convocation, said a central theme of the gathering was listening -- “our ability to listen to our people and to each other and most of all to the Lord. As the archdiocese continues to find healing, we have to listen to the Lord and each other.”
Msgr. Robert Amey, the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Rockville, Maryland, who this year marked his 50th anniversary as a priest, said, “It’s always a reaffirmation of the fraternity of our priesthood. There’s a great spirit of joy as we have our convocation.”
Another priest appreciating the joyful spirit at the gathering was Father Robert Kilner, a parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata, Maryland, who was ordained to the priesthood in 2017. “I really enjoyed this gathering. I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
The young priest noted, “We discussed the challenges our diocese is undergoing. There is a lot of hope and fraternity and trust in what the Lord is trying to do with His Church.”
The opening day included a Holy Hour, a social and dinner, and in the evening, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory offered remarks and had a conversation with the priests.
On Nov. 6 after morning prayer, Kim Viti Fiorentino – the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington – offered an overview of critical legislative issues facing local Catholics. Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis spoke on “The Priest: Called to a Life of Ongoing Discernment.”
That day also included a Mass, Adoration, vespers and opportunities for the sacrament of Reconciliation. Optional workshops were offered on “The Priest at Prayer,” “Welcoming and Accompanying People who Experience Same-Sex Attraction,” and “Ministering to Those Struggling with Anxiety.”
Some priests visited local historic sites related to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
The gathering closed on Nov. 7 with a talk by Archbishop Hebda on “Spiritual ‘Hearing Aids’ for the Priest Called to Listen,” and then the priests gathered together for a closing Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gregory, who was joined by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the retired archbishop of Washington; and by Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario Dorsonville, Roy Campbell Jr. and Michael Fisher.
Before the final blessing, Archbishop Gregory expressed gratitude to the priests for “your devotion to the ministry of the Church, your warm welcome to me, and the bright promise we offer to Christ’s Church, together in unity.”
And before the priests drove off to cross the Bay Bridge and return home, he added, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace. Drive safely.”
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