by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will receive three new servant leaders later this month when I ordain Deacons Christopher Komoroski, Benson Lokidiriyo and Andrew Reckers to the priesthood. This moment of great joy for me and for the local Church comes at a time of continuing fear, anxiety, social tension and confusion as we all struggle to deal with the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic.
How this global health crisis will affect our new priests’ ministry in the coming months and beyond, no one knows. We do know, however, that each of them was called by God to serve the faithful of our archdiocese in Word and Sacrament, no matter the circumstances. Perhaps it is in the darkest of days, such as these, that their service is most needed.
As our archdiocesan prayer for vocations reminds us, every person was created by God with a vocation – a definite purpose in life. And we are happiest when we discern and accept that divine plan. We can see this in Scripture, where almost every biblical narrative is an account of God’s call and a human being’s generous “yes” in response. I am grateful to our new priests, and to all priests, who have accepted their call.
The newly ordained will share the pain that their brother priests feel at being distanced from the faithful in a way that has never happened before, with public celebration of the Eucharist suspended and normal parish functions disrupted. Even hospital and nursing home visits are all but impossible. Most painful of all, there were no full churches at the Easter Triduum to celebrate the Lord’s redemptive passion, death and resurrection. Happily, Holy Week services were live-streamed from the Cathedral and many of our parishes so thousands of you could participate remotely. The technology that our parishes have used with great creativity to keep the faithful connected is a welcome gift from God. However, it does not fully replace physical presence.
Nevertheless, the Church remains the Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints. Not only are we all in this difficult situation together, but Christ is also in it with us. Though we walk in the dark valley, we do not walk alone. The Lord has not abandoned us. I have asked our priests to continue to pray for their parishioners, for the whole archdiocese, and for all our suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world as they offer the Sacrifice of the Mass privately. I pray for each of you as well. At the same time, I ask you to remember our priests as you practice spiritual communion. Pour out your heart and soul to our Heavenly Father, who loves us and who takes care of us.
Speaking on the archdiocese’s “COVID-19 Daily Update on Facebook” at the end of March, I urged viewers to practice almsgiving in the form of checking on their neighbors and offering help. Now I request that you do the same for our priests. Make a phone call or send an encouraging card to let them know you have not forgotten them during these difficult days of separation.
We are all suffering in some ways. Even those who have not lost a job or a loved one to the pandemic feel stressed as we contemplate an unknowable future. However, Christ offers us a consistent message of hope about what lies ahead: Do not be afraid. Or as Jesus says in the Gospel of John: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn 14:1).