Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Celebrating Priestly Careers

One of the favorite yearly events in my life is the clergy conference of the Diocese of St Cloud that meets for three days every October. The conferees gather for Morning and evening prayer (singing and praying the Psalms and the poetry of the Bible) and at midday to celebrate the Eucharist. The serious presentations and meetings take place between the prayer time and the meal times. Oh yes, in years that the weather cooperates, we golf, swim, play tennis, walk or tour, on one of the afternoons.

For me, the prayer time is always a high point. The large conference room serving as a chapel resounding with over a hundred voices, mostly men, eagerly signing the biblical Psalms never fails to inspire me. At the banquet on the final night we honor retiring clergy with plaques, testimonials, often by the Bishop, and appreciative applause for their remarks recapping their years of service. This year the three retirees were priests and their stories revealed the wide scope that a priestly vocation can take at the diocesan level.

Eberhard Schefers always wanted to be a Parish Priest. His vocation was just that. His early assignments as curate were in a time when many parishes had at least two priests on staff and his pastoral assignments ended in a time where most priests pastor multiple parishes at the same time. Father Schefers spoke of his happiness in his vocation and his love for the people he served.

Richard Leisen decided as young priest that he would like to be a missionary and asked the Bishop to assign him to the overseas missions sponsored by the diocese. The Bishop instead asked Richard to go Fordham University and study for an advanced degree in social work. Upon his return he became the head of Catholic charities in Central Minnesota where he served for 22 years. The remaining 22 years of his ministry he served as Pastor. Father Richard spoke of the satisfactions of a priestly life taking special note of the many refugees families he helped resettle in the United States.

Daniel Taufen, early in his seminary training, revealed a knack for administration and was sent to Rome for advanced studies. In his ministry in the diocese he served for many years as Vicar General, the top administrative executive in the diocese under the bishop. Monsignor Taufen also was editor of the Diocesan Newspaper for many years. He was clearly moved by the tribute and applause of the gathered clerics.

The careers of this evening's honorees are certainly a tribute to the wide range of ministries possible within a vocation to the priesthood as well as the satisfaction and love one receives from a life dedicated to serving God's people.

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