A vocation awareness group invites the faithful to write letters and emails of gratitude to their favorite priests.
The second annual “Thank You, Father” campaign began on Priesthood Sunday on September 26 and will run until Thanksgiving on November 25.
Sponsored by the missionaries of Serra, the initiative is an opportunity for parishioners to share in their own words the positive impact that priests have had in their lives.
Last year’s campaign drew more than 200 responses – including one from Australia – for diocesan priests in Philadelphia, according to Cynthia Brown, vice president of communications for the Serra Club of Philadelphia and the Serra Missionaries, which promote vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated religious life.
Many participants in the 2020 campaign were especially grateful for the diligent care the clergy provided amid the pandemic.
Mgr. Kevin Lawrence, parish priest of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in the Manayunk section of the city, was praised by a parishioner for being “the first to get his hands dirty” for making sure “every bench” was cleaned to prevent the spread of disease.
At St. Barbara Parish in Philadelphia, a woman congratulated Pastor Mgr. Wilfred Pashley for the “comfort, guidance and understanding” he provided as she faced the planning of her father’s funeral just weeks after the first round of COVID lockdowns.
A parishioner of the Mother of Divine Providence to the King of Prussia said she “still had chills” remembering the moment the pastor, Father Martin Cioppi, “got into the back of a van holding the Blessed Sacrament for a “pop-up / drive around town” adoration. “
The faithful also expressed their support for the ways in which their priests have promoted forgiveness and healing.
“There was a time in my life when I had committed sins for which I thought God could not forgive me,” wrote a St. Elizabeth parishioner in Chester Springs. “I was so surprised (by)… the loving and heartwarming way (pastor) Father Thomas Mullin responded to my situation. In fact, I felt that God was in this meeting… (which) gave me the desire to draw closer to God and better understand his ways.
“Thank you for being my confessor and showing me compassion when I felt fear and uncertainty about the sacrament of reconciliation,” a member of St. John Bosco in Warminster wrote to Pastor Gary Kramer . “Thank you for the times you told the harsh truth to my breaking… even when I didn’t want to hear it.”
This restoration mission also addressed some of the church’s deepest wounds, such as those suffered by the clergy sexual abuse scandals.
“I will never forget that Sunday… when you bowed down to all of us and asked forgiveness for your brother priests,” wrote a parishioner from Saint Elizabeth to Father Mullin. “A true testimony of humility, love, forgiveness and service.”
A number of letters have underlined the sensitivity with which priests have approached parish closures and mergers.
Mgr. Lawrence of St. John the Baptist was tasked with “(uniting) three parishes into one” and “worked diligently and tirelessly to make this happen” through “meetings and prayers,” said a parishioner .
The engaging homilies were often cited by the writers of last year’s letter, Father Joseph Kelley, pastor of St. Monica Parish in South Philadelphia, receiving several compliments for his pulpit skills.
“I have never – EVER – met a priest to be applauded and given a standing ovation after some of his homilies, especially when he denounces the evils of abortion,” wrote a parishioner who had returned to church afterwards. an absence of 16 years.
The same writer added that “Father Kelley’s sense of comedy is legendary,” sometimes evoking tears of laughter.
Retired Father Anthony Cossavella, who once served at Holy Savior Parish in Norristown, also has “a pretty good sense of humor,” wrote a former parishioner. “He taught me to laugh at myself over and over, and… (not) go a day without laughing.”
Some priests displayed unexpected talents, such as Father Brian Izzo, who, while assigned to Holy Savior Parish in Norristown, raffled a gourmet dinner prepared with his own hands.
“The butternut squash was to die for,” wrote the winning parishioner.
Above all, priests have been praised for being “a bridge for many to establish their initial bond with God, or reconnect with him,” as described by a parishioner of Saint-Raymond de Penafort, Pastor Father Christopher Walsh.
“Legend has it that Saint Christopher carried the incarnate infant Jesus across a stream. Father Chris brought many to Christ, ”added the parishioner.
Speaking of Father Christopher Cooke – who once served at St. Francis of Assisi in Norristown prior to his current assignment at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood – one writer summed up the sentiment of many campaign participants: “Thank you for saying Yes. to the call of God in your life.
To participate in the 2021 “Thank You, Father” campaign, send a gratitude letter or email directly to the priest (s) you wish to thank. For more information, contact Kathryn Slaats at [email protected]