Diocese’s priests gather, urged to remain in God’s love

Photo Caption: Surrounded by many of the more than 150 priests of the diocese taking part in Assembly Days Oct. 26-27, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

By: By Tom Dermody

Success in priestly ministry is not measured by numbers or accomplishments, but by remaining in and sharing the love of Christ, priests from around the Diocese of Peoria were told this week.

“You and I can drift away so easily because of the expectations put on us and because of the expectations we put on ourselves,” said Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, the main presenter at Priest Assembly Days. About 150 clergy of the diocese attended two days of reflection Oct. 26 and 27 at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria.

Archbishop Flynn, archbishop emeritus of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told the priests that they, like so many in today’s task-oriented society, can fall into the trap of believing “if you achieve, you have value, and that if you don’t, your value is less.”

“But we are more than functionaries,” he told the group in his opening presentation on Tuesday morning. “Ministry is not work. Ministry is all about Jesus and his life. Ministry is sharing the life and love of Jesus with others. It’s all about his joy. It’s relational.”

He noted that when Jesus named St. Peter to lead the church, he didn’t ask the apostle about his administrative skills. He asked “Do you love me?,” not once, but three times.

During a second talk on friendship with Jesus, Archbishop Flynn challenged the priests to answer two questions:

“When I think of myself, do I see myself as a friend of Jesus Christ, or more as a functionary or a servant? And when others speak of me, do they speak of me as a friend of Jesus Christ, or as an administrator?”

“Those are two powerful questions,” said Archbishop Flynn, who retired in 2008 and now splits his residencies between Minnesota and his home state of New York. “If we answer ‘friend,’ we’re moving in the right direction and the church will flourish.”

The priests of the Diocese of Peoria gather for Assembly Days every two years. In addition to the presentations by Archbishop Flynn, this year’s gathering offered social time together, including dinner on Tuesday night, and a Wednesday morning Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The bishop called celebrating a Mass just as a priestly community “a special grace.”

“I am grateful to be with you,” said Bishop Jenky, who later updated the priests on his recent trip to Rome for the canonization of six new saints.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Flynn congratulated the Diocese of Peoria for its high number of vocations.

“It’s the talk of the country,” he told the priests. “You are shaking the bushes.”

Archbishop Flynn encouraged the priests to frequently share the story of their own vocations.

“Every story is a mystery,” he said. “God’s call and our response.”

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