29 priests honored June 23 at diocese’s Jubilarian Mass

By: By Jennifer Willems

It’s true that the Year for Priests ended last weekend, but it wasn’t evident last Wednesday as 29 priests were honored for their years of service to the people of God in central Illinois, and two newly ordained priests were welcomed.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, celebrated the annual Jubilarian Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on June 23 and then hosted a dinner celebration for the diocesan and religious order priests at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center.

Before Mass ended, however, Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, asked the honorees to stand and be recognized. Among them were: Father Robert E. Prendergast, 60 years; Canon J.J. Flattery, Father Richard R. Kolczaski, Father Richard L. Mullen, Father Robert D. O’Connor and Father John G. Waugh, 55 years; Father George F. Remm, who also served as homilist, and Father Tom Royer, 50 years; Father Kenneth L. Marchulones, 45 years; Msgr. Charles Beebe and Father Donald R. Henderson, 40 years; and Father Richard E. Crawford, 35 years.

Also celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2010 are: Father Anthony Ego and Msgr. Rick J. Oberch, 25 years; Father Scott Archer, Father John Burns, Father Vien Van Do, Father Patrick O’Neal, Msgr. Eric Powell, Father Eugene Radosevich and Father Patrick Riordan, 20 years; Father Patrick DeMuelemeester, Father Joseph Dondanville, Father Jeffrey Stirniman and Father John Verrier, 15 years; and Father S. Stephen Engelbrecht and Father Peter Pilon, 10 years.

Also receiving applause were Father Larry Zurek, OFM, and Fathre Bruce King, IC, who are celebrating silver jubilees.

Ordained on May 29 and joining the gathering for the first time were Father Paul R. Carlson and Father James T. Pankiewicz.

PRIESTS AS ‘GUARDIANS’
Father Remm noted that a priest seldom has the opportunity to give a homily to his own presbyterate unless it’s at the funeral of priest-friend “or if he lives to be 50 years a priest, he may have the honor to give the homily at the Jubilarian Mass.”

Calling it a “frightening and enormous responsibility,” he quipped that a golden jubilarian can no longer say with Jeremiah, “Ah, Lord God! I know not how to speak, I am too young.”

What his age and perspective helped him to reflect on was the priest as “guardians of the memory.” A phrase borrowed from Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., it refers to how priests are called “to make Christ present in his word and in the sacraments. The crowning of this memorializing action is the Eucharist — the Mass.”

Father Remm cautioned that the church’s understanding of the word “memorial” is not that of a moment in the past.

“The Hebrew understanding of memorial is that of an ongoing event,” he said. “The Eucharist is an active event, a present happening, an action of the whole church that makes . . . the memorial present as a saving event. And we priests are indeed the guardians of that memory in the active celebration of the Eucharist.”

NO ANTIQUES HERE
To lock such a mystery of the faith away in a safety deposit box would make it an antique, Father Remm said. To surround it with security guards so that no one steals it or damages it would make it a museum piece to look at.

“We become ‘guardians of the memorial’ by a vibrant celebration of the Eucharist,” he told his brother priests. “We guard it by allowing it to be experienced, involving the church, the people of God, in the reality of the Paschal Mystery in their lives now.”

Noting that the Jubilarian Mass took place on the Nativity of John the Baptist, Father Remm said priests are also called to prepare the way for the Messiah as the “guardians of the memory.”

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