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By Sean O'Leary

As we embark upon the journey of expanding training opportunities in support of lay ministry, it is a good time to reflect upon the role of priests and religious in our Church. Priests and religious do so much of their work in a quiet way that it would be easy to take them and their role for granted. Often, priests and religious are a community anchor in times of loss or celebration. Indeed, they perform this role so well even in times of crisis or turmoil that we don’t often stop to think about the pastoral care of priests and religious.

The first thing to say is that any renewal of lay ministries is not about replacing priests nor diminishing our respect for priests and religious in the Diocese. The exact opposite is true. The role of lay ministries is to collaborate with priests and religious to share in the ministry of Christ. Even as we prepare to expand our understanding of lay ministry, we continue to pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life.

The primary work of priests is to nurture the spiritual and apostolic growth of the faithful by teaching, sanctifying and leading. These roles remain vital today. It is good to remember that priests are sacramental persons who exist differently in and for the Church through a unique relationship with the community and in a collegial relationship in communion with one another and with their bishop.

It is a good time to thank priests and religious for their faithful service and ministry and to acknowledge them as a gift to us and to the Church just as we thank God for their vocation. These courageous people dedicate their lives to following Christ and serving His people even amidst cultural transitions, declining vocations, and changing circumstances. A small group of lay faithful have helped write the following letter of gratitude to the priests and religious of our Diocese.

'Your efforts and sacrifices are appreciated. Your prayers and guidance are appreciated. Your compassion and love are appreciated. Often, it is your humour or friendly banter that is appreciated. Your humility and wisdom, your passion and joy and your goodness and generosity are inspirational to many more people than you know.

You are prayed for every day as we ask God to bless you, strengthen you and give you peace. We offer you encouragement and support, friendship and care, help and cooperation. We are your family in Christ, your fellow disciples and your partners in the Gospel.

In God’s beloved kingdom, no one walks alone. Be assured of our gratitude, our admiration and our communion and know that you are valued and cherished. It is a profound blessing that you have remained steadfast in Christ’s mission even in the most challenging of times.

Thank you for being a gift to us and to the Church and thank you for being a sign of God’s presence and action in the world. May God reward you abundantly for all that you do and keep you in his love and care, now and always.’

Please share this message with the members of religious orders or priests that you know.

In the peace and belonging of Christ,



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