Program #0123 for Monday, August 29, 2011: Celebration of the Priesthood

August 29, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s): Doug and Joanie Kingsley, Msgr. George Carlson, Joe D’Arrigo

Today’s topics: Celebration of the Priesthood Dinner

Summary of today’s show: Scot welcomed Doug and Joanie Kingsley, co-chairs of the Celebration of the Priesthood dinner coming up in September to benefit senior and ill priests; Msgr. George Carlson who is working with the Clergy Funds on the care of priests; and Joe D’Arrigo, executive director of the Clergy Funds to discuss the priests of Boston, the new initiative for the laity to show their appreciation for their priests, and efforts to close the previous operating deficits for the funds without cutting benefits.

1st segment: Scot said five years ago Cardinal Sean launched an initiative to continue care for our senior and ill priests. This year, the 3rd annual celebration of the priesthood dinner will continue to raise funds for their care ad well as to celebrate their lives. Scot welcomed the co-chairs, Doug and Joanie Kingsley, Msgr. Carlson from the board that oversees the funds, and Joe D’Arrigo executive director of the fund.

Scot asked Doug why he was excited to say yes to the cardinal. They helped on the dinner last year and learned what a great event it is. The dinner is so important because the money goes to the clergy funds which provide for the healthcare and retirement of our priests. Scot said to Joanie that she and Doug are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Joanie said they have four boys, two in college and two in high school. They have made it a point for them all to have a Catholic education. Our priests are God’s boots on the ground and it’s an honor to be part of this event.

Scot asked them about priests who’ve mad an impact in their lives. Joanie said she’s one of 9 children and her family was active in their parish. She had two uncles who were priests. They had priests at their house almost every Sunday. They had a dear family priest friend, Fr. Howard at St. James the Great in Wellesley, one of the three priests at their wedding. He became part of the family. Doug said they carried on the tradition with their boys and so many priests are part of their lives. In their parish of St. Patrick, Natick, they’ve had so many great priests over the past 10 years, including Fr. Stephen Donohoe, now in Chelmsford, who has a real military bearing about him. Fr. Tom Rafferty is now at St. John the Evangelist in Swampscott. The pastor, Fr. Brian Kiely, is a good and holy priest, who gives you your Catholic marching orders at Mass. A few years ago, he vested himself at the beginning of Mass and taught the congregation what each piece is about, what is symbolizes, and so on.

Doug said in just this last year, Joanie’s 89-year-old aunt came from the hospital to die in their house and she spent two weeks next to the Christmas tree in their living room, and there was a constant stream of priest-friends coming through the house to say prayers with her and anoint her. It was a wonderful example for the young people who are friends with their sons to see the priests.

Scot said priests have been through so much in the past 10 years because of the crimes of a few of their brother priests. Scot said the dinner is important for the money it raises, but it’s also important because it celebrates our good, holy, and happy priests. Doug said the first dinner in September 2009 started to honor the work of our priests in the archdiocese and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ordination of Cardinal Sean as a bishop. About 1,600 people attended. The first event raised over $400,000 and the Cardinal decided to make it an annual event for the support of the clergy funds.

The event will be on September 22 at the Seaport World Trade Center. Reception at 5:30, dinner at 7pm. It will run like clockwork and end early. It’s a $500 per person event. Some people are getting together in their parish to sponsor a table to honor their pastor. Even if you can’t attend, they’re accepting donations of all amounts. It’s an opportunity to thank your priests, write him a note or go see him and tell him how much he means in your life.

See the website for details or call 617-779-3733, ask for Claudia.

Scot asked why the dinner was renamed from Priest Appreciation Dinner to Celebration of the Priesthood this year. Many priests thought the old name didn’t quite capture the meaning and the purpose of the event: It’s in honor of the dignity and service of our priests. Doug said priests are important to Catholics because it is through them that we receive the sacraments.

Priests don’t really retire. It’s not a job, like a doctor or lawyer. It’s a vocation like fatherhood and just like parents don’t retire from their parenthood, so priests don’t retire from the priesthood. Many senior priests still celebrate Mass in parishes on Sunday or help with other needs in parishes.

Scot said priests give up everything to be priests for us and it’s important for us to take care of them in their need. Joanie said the following passage distills the need for the dinner like this:

Mark 6:8 “And Jesus commanded them that they should take nothing for the way, but a staff only.” Our priests are commanded to go out into the world to preach and heal, but to take nothing with them; to rely on the generosity of those they meet. What a responsibility for us to take care of them. Doug noted that one of the precepts of the Church is to contribute to the support of our pastors.

Scot asked about the program at the dinner. Doug said it will be emceed by Fr. Bob Reed of CatholicTV. A lay witness to the faith will be given by Chris Boyle. Cardinal Sean will speak. There will also be a video tribute to priests, showing the daily work of our priests, including senior priests. Many of them are doing things they were never trained for.

2nd segment: Scot welcomes Msgr. George Carlson from Holy Name, West Roxbury and Joe D’Arrigo, executive director of the Clergy Funds. Today is the 41st anniversary of Cardinal Sean’s ordination to the priesthood. Msgr. Carlson has been ordained 45 years. His first assignment was at St. Theresa, Reading, then St. Theresa, Watertown. He went into team ministry with Fr. Gerry Ostermann at St. Boniface, Quincy. Then to Sacred Heart, Roslindale, and then the Pastoral Institute at the Seminary for priests and the pastoral support of priests. They started a program for newly ordained priests as well. He got to know all the priests of the archdiocese. Then he went to St. Patrick, Lawrence, which he describes as a jewel of the Archdiocese. From there he went to Holy Name in West Roxbury about 11 years ago.

Scot said we have a vocation shortage in the relative sense, not in the absolute sense, which means we ordained record numbers in the 1950s and and 1960s and now they are all elderly and retiring and needing care from the Church.

Msgr. Carlson said when he was ordained there was no retirement policy and it was introduced in 1968. Before that priests just lived and worked in their parishes well after 75. Msgr. Carlson said what was normal in the 1950s and 60s was a blip in the history of the Church to have so many priests and religious. He said he’s never worried about the numbers. He’s only worried about being trusting enough to respond to the needs of the Church.

One of the blessings of the priesthood is that people share their most intimate lives with their priests and trust them so much. That is a blessing.

Scot welcomed Joe D’Arrigo back to the show. Cardinal Sean had asked Joe to come on in a consulting role originally to help with the Clergy Fund’s deficits and losses. The Cardinal had called Joe to ask him to help and Joe initially said No because of how overwhelming it was. He later changed his mind after talking with friends who said he should do it. He felt God calling him to use his talents to help the Fund. Three years ago, they had a $10 million operating deficit due to a lack of forethought and projection and many economic factors, one of which was the rampant increase of medical costs and housing costs. It had nothing to do with Reconfiguration or the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

Joe said one of the strengths of Cardinal Sean was bringing in experts on particular subjects, businessmen who understand the particular problem and leave the priests in their ministry. Joe said they have not cut benefits to priests, and increased it in some areas. Joe was able to build trust with people by sharing the facts and speaking bluntly of the economic realities and the need for the people to support our priests.

Joe said working collaboratively is important. Having a dialogue starts with data and you have to share it with those who need to solve the problem. He shared the data with the priests and answered all their questions, dispelling rumors. The problem was solved by Joe and the priests working together.

Part of the solution was cutting expenses without cutting benefits and finding new sources of revenue, including a new collection in June and strengthening of Christmas and Easter collections. This dinner was also key because it also raised awareness. They cut expenses by cutting 7.5 Million dollars, part of which included getting priests on Medicare and Medicaid which they qualified for. They increased revenue by $6 million, by getting the priests to understand this was their fund and so they delivered this message to their people.

They are projecting a break-even budget for this coming fiscal year.

Joe said the first dinner in 2009 was a celebration. There was a phenomenal feeling in the room. He was stunned to see 1,600 people there. He remembers the feeling that the priests in the room had that so many people had come out to appreciate them. In 2009, they raised $400,00. Last year, it was a little over $1million. But even greater was seeing the smiles on the faces of the priests to see the people of the Archdiocese of Boston come out and support them.

Msgr. Carlson remembers a priest-friend who was so happy to be at the dinner, but has now gone to God. Another experience he did not expect to have was all the priests singing Salve Regina at the end of the dinner. They sing the Salve Regina in Night Prayer and all the priests at a priest’s funeral sing it together as well. He was surprised how all the lay people were touched by that. He remembers Fr. John MacInness giving a powerful reflection on the priesthood.

3rd segment: Doug talked about the priest committee for the Celebration of the Priesthood. Fr. Higgins in Newton, Fr. Kiely in Natick, Fr. Ed Riley of St. John Seminary, Fr. Fitzgerald in Wellesley, Fr. Palardi at Bl. John XXII Seminary, Fr. Tom Rafferty in Swampscott, Fr. Evans in Weston, Bishop Boles, Fr. Armano in Methuen. They’ve worked hard reaching out to brother priests to let them know they’re invited guests to this event and spreading the word.

Doug said all priests are invited guests at the dinner and are welcome to come to be appreciate and thanked.

Scot asked Joe about the Clergy Fund board. He said it’s been a big help in getting the priests behind them. It is an independent board of trustees. Their objective is to make sure the benefits to the priests is there when they need them. The independence of the trustees is important for the credibility of the fund for the priests.

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