Known and loved in diocese

Many priests of the Diocese of Peoria know and have great affection for Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the Midwesterner who was named by Pope Benedict XVI this week to succeed retiring Cardinal Edward M. Egan as head of the Archdiocese of New York. Some of our priests came to know the quick-to-laugh priest when he was rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 1994 to 2001. Others recall him from earlier years when the St. Louis native was vice rector of Kenrick Seminary there.

More than 100 of our priests were inspired by Archbishop Dolan’s message when he came to Peoria in the fall of 2007 to lead Priest Assembly Days. His words to that group offer a glimpse of what those in our nation’s media capital can expect from their new shepherd: a leader deeply in love with Jesus Christ and the priesthood.

“We priests are hopelessly head over heels in love with Jesus and his church,” he said at Assembly Days. Speaking on the topic of priestly identity in the face of scandals and shortages, he boldly told the priests that “to recover our priestly identity we need to get back on the cross of Christ.”

“Our vocation is a call, not a career; a life, not a job,” he said. When they find their identity in being configured to Christ and share in his “nuptial love” for his bride, the church, priests just “burst” to fully live their priesthood and affect the lives of others, said Archbishop Dolan.

The affection those in the diocese have for Archbishop Dolan was duly returned. He said two priests of the Peoria diocese have had a “towering impact” on his life: Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, a church historian from Seneca, and Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the famed media personality from El Paso.

When Archbishop Dolan’s abundant gifts — including faith, graciousness, and humor — are experienced in the Big Apple, the people of New York will soon come to love their new shepherd as much as those in St. Louis, Milwaukee, and the Diocese of Peoria already do. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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