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New bishop reflects on priesthood

Tony Rivera | Friday, April 23, 2010

Before an audience of priests, seminarians and students, Bishop Kevin Rhoades warned “there is no excuse today for the confusion and errors about priestly identity and mission that were prevalent a few decades ago.”

Calling for Catholic priests to fulfill the call of becoming “living images and living instruments of Christ,” Rhoades delivered his address at the Moreau Seminary auditorium on Thursday night in honor of the Church’s “Year for Priests.”

“We should be filled with a spirit of wonder when contemplating the mystery of the priesthood,” Rhoades said.

As part of his overnight stay at the Moreau Seminary, Rhodes’ address focused on the theme of “Christ the High Priest,” telling his audience that it is not possible to talk about this area of Catholicism without returning to “the priesthood of Christ.”

“Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers,” Rhoades said, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas.

Rhoades, who was ordained as a priest in 1983, was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend last November.

For Bishop Rhodes, life in the priesthood has been one of reflection.

“To understand and appreciate the nature and the meaning of the Catholic priesthood, one needs to reflect deeply on the priestly consecration and mission of Jesus Christ,” Rhoades said.

This reflecting, he continued, finds roots in the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews.

Though describing it as one of the most challenging books of the New Testament, Bishop Rhoades pointed out that Hebrews is significant for its “priestly Christology, a presentation for the identity and mission of Christ in priestly terms.”

In return, the Bishop said, Jesus gives comfort to the priest in his Priestly Prayer found in the 17th chapter in the Gospel of John.

“He is praying for us,” he said of this passage. “He is praying for the Church.”

He likewise stressed the importance for the faithful to pray for protection in the Church’s mission as well, especially in light of the resurgence of new sex abuse scandals.

“I wonder if we would be in the mess we’re in after the priest and clergy abuse scandals if we were praying for protection from the evil one,” Rhoades said.

In the present day, the Bishop also said it was “absolutely essential” when promoting vocations to present the beauty of the priesthood.

This responsibility, he said, falls on parishes, schools, religious education programs, campus ministry and other youth ministry groups.

“Such authentic catechesis can and does inspire young men to consider a possible vocation to share in the priestly consecration of Jesus,” Rhoades said.