When the school bell rings this fall, Catholic youths across the archdiocese will have a chance to strengthen their understanding of pro-life issues, thanks to programming through the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.
Education “is one of the four pillars of our apostolate,” said director Beth Lauver. “We feel this is very important, because if we can bring up more young people who care about life issues and understand the issues from an early age, then we will affect the culture positively.”
The numerous youth education programs offered through the apostolate are not required programming for schools; nevertheless, many are finding ways to incorporate them into their students’ activities.
St. John Mary Vianney was born on May 8, 1786, at Dardilly, near Lyon, in France.
Born of a very devout family, he was a young child during the French Revolution, a time when the Catholic clergy and religious were being exiled and murdered. He received his first Holy Communion at a time when the troops of the French Revolution passed through the region and closed the parish church.
His vocation was encouraged by a priest, and two years later St. John received the permission of his father to study for the priesthood. He was not an outstanding student, but he was finally ordained in 1815 at the age of 29.
A local Catholic theater company has produced a play in honor of the Year for Priests.
Theater of the Word Inc. will present, “Faith of Our Father: The Story of a Priest,” to parishes and other groups during the Year for Priests.
The story focuses on Father Mike, a young priest recently appointed pastor at a suburban parish. In the midst of parish politics, fund-raising fiascoes and the daily challenges of caring for souls, the priest’s own faith begins to falter, until he is visited by St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests.
Theater of the Word founder Kevin O’Brien said he wrote the script as a “way to honor our priests. If you put yourself in the position of these priests, it’s almost impossible to imagine that they do what they do.”
“We wanted to deal with this in a humorous way, but with an underlying message,” he said. “There are jokes about parish committees and all the ‘hassles’ a priest must face.”
A Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Most Sacred Heart Parish, 350 E. Fourth St. in Eureka, just off Interstate 44.
The Mass will be preceeded by the Sacrament of Confessions at 5:30, followed by a procession and veneration of a relic of St. John Vianney.
Msgr. Edward Rice, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, will be the homilist. All priests and invited to concelebrate.
The Mass, which is being organized through the Office of Vocations, is being celebrated as part of the archdiocese’s activities for the Year for Priests.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of the special year, he declared St. John Vianney as the universal patron saint of priests.
“The Holy Father is asking everyone to use this year to especially pray for our priests,” said Msgr. Rice. “We will offer this Mass for that intention and also that more holy men respond to God’s call to serve Jesus as His priests.
In another program, families have signed up to “adopt” a chalice provided by the parish and to pray for vocations to the priesthood.
Each week, families take home the chalice, which is enclosed in a case, and focus their prayers on vocations. Guenther said the chalice eventually will be given to the first person from the parish who is ordained a priest.
“We’re using this as a way to explain the Eucharist and importance of the priesthood in bringing the Eucharist to the faithful,” said Guenther.
“I think this is also a time for people to pray for and appreciate their pastor,” he said. “As a matter of fact, a bishop friend of mine once said when ‘you get a priest, you pray for them.’”
“Secondly, I think this is a good opportunity for priests to focus on their call, whether it’s 10 years ago — or in my case next year, 40 years ago,” he said, “and to rededicate themselves to the vows that they made as a newly ordained priest.”