A Perspective on Turning 40

For several years I have been invited to participate in the “Perspectives from the Priesthood” column in the AD Times. Each time has been an opportunity to consider a theological, spiritual, or moral presentation of something relevant to the times. This year I am taking a different approach.

I turn 40 this summer, and it confuses my brain to be in the “middle” category of life. Ordination, more than 13 years ago, seems like it was 13 months ago. Last week, for the first time, I walked into a room at the rectory and forgot why I went there.

Most of all, this priest’s perspective is one of gratitude, which I observe is sometimes underrated in the spiritual life. G.K. Chesterton maintained that “thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” His Eminence, the late Cardinal John Foley said that he never had an unhappy day as a priest, qualified by “many difficult days,” but not unhappy.

This is why I write this time in gratitude to our Bishops, my brother priests, deacons, and the people of the Diocese of Allentown. In addition, Our Lord, Our Lady, the Saints, and my family, I owe so much appreciation to you.

St. Patrick Parish in McAdoo, now All Saints Parish, nourished my faith. Father Vincent Cronin baptized me and trained me for service at the altar. He was the model of a priestly gentleman whom I strive to imitate. Many other priests and Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who taught me at Marian Catholic High School, kept me firmly grounded in faith. I did not appreciate their example in the same way I do now, and I am so grateful for their quietly but emphatically nurturing vocations.

At St. Charles Borromeo Seminary the Diocese of Allentown provided me with formation and an education that I could have never expected or afforded personally. Human, spiritual, academic, and pastoral pillars guided us in our Philosophical, Spiritual, and Theological studies.

Throughout this process we were formed by a group of priests, both at the seminary, and from our Diocese, who saw that we were discerning and progressing toward the call of Christ. To all our formators I am grateful, as I am to Bishop Emeritus of Allentown Edward Cullen, who ordained me and my classmates: Father Allen Hoffa and Father Keith Mathur.

Assignments at St. Catharine of Siena Parish and Berks Catholic High School, Reading, as well as Notre Dame High School, Easton, allowed for the exercise of priestly ministry in settings where so many parishioners, colleagues, students, and friends offered encouragement and the challenge to grow.

I am grateful to our Deaconate Community and the men in formation who have enriched this priestly vocation. I am grateful for the opportunity to further my education in Canon Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I am grateful for Bishop John Barres who sent me and to Bishop Alfred Schlert who guided me throughout.

I am certain this was funded by the generosity of the “Because We Are Catholic” Campaign, and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to our donors for an eye-opening and extraordinary educational experience I would never have had otherwise. I am grateful for my assignments, the parishes where I have lived, and coworkers at the Diocese.

Looking at 40 as a priest reminds me that both Cardinal Foley and Chesterton were correct: for so many happy priestly days I must raise my mind to the highest form of thought, and doubled by the wonder of priestly ministry, express my deep gratitude. At the same time, I invite you to consider everything for which you have to be grateful.

By Father Eugene Ritz, Chancellor of the Diocese of Allentown; Director of the Office for Canonical Services; Director of the Office for Permanent Diaconate Formation; and Judge on the Diocesan Tribunal; in residence at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Orefield.


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