The loss of two of our priests

The two diocesan priests who died this month lived very different lives. Msgr. Robert W. O’Connor, 92, was blessed with health and longevity, and spent more than five decades in one assignment. Father Benjamin Reese, 57, was stricken in midlife with ALS after service not only in several parishes in our diocese but also in North Dakota and Wisconsin.

There is a lesson in the passing of these two very unique individuals, both deeply loved. There is no cookie-cutter when it comes to the men the Holy Spirit calls to the priesthood.

A future priest could be a boy sitting next to you in your parish in LaSalle, a young man at a university Newman Center in Champaign, or someone called from a career in Rock Island.

The Diocese of Peoria has invited us all to pray a novena for vocations that began this Wednesday. It’s never too late to pray. The novena’s brief daily prayers and meditation are printed on the Office of Vocations website.

As we pray for the souls of Msgr. O’Connor and Father Reese, let’s also honor them by asking the Holy Spirit to bless our diocese with more priests like them, though surely unique in their own way. — Thomas J. Dermody

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