ROCHESTER — The sacrifices of martyrs and priests have borne much fruit for the Catholic Church and mirror Jesus’ sacrifice celebrated in the paschal mystery, said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, speaking at a special Mass June 22 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The Mass marked three occasions: the feast day of the patron saint of the Diocese of Rochester, St. John Fisher; the 25th and 50th anniversaries of ordination for priests of or serving in the Rochester Diocese, including Father Jesús Flores, who is celebrating his 25th jubilee; and the culmination of the Year for Priests, which was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Archbishop Dolan spent much of his homily speaking about the sacrifices priests make on behalf of the church. He cited the jubilarian priests honored at the Mass for their examples of fidelity and faithfulness, noting that their day-to-day sacrifices are reflected in the Eucharist.
"That is a paradigm of the priesthood," Archbishop Dolan said, paraphrasing theologian and Jesuit Father Walter Burghardt. "Jesus takes us, blesses us, breaks us and gives us."
He also told the story of a friend and classmate in seminary whose health deteriorated over the course of 10 years due to multiple sclerosis. One day, after falling and nearly hitting his head on a marble altar while in Rome, the friend held onto the altar to steady himself as he preached. Friends commented afterwards that it was the best description of the priesthood they had ever witnessed, Archbishop Dolan said: A priest is unable to stand alone, so he clings to the altar and to God.
That anecdote of the priest needing to hang onto an altar struck a chord with Maureen Madonia, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Irondequoit. She said the presence of many priests at the Mass also was very moving.
"Seeing all those wonderful priests just brought tears to my eyes," Madonia said.
The chance to see priests who formerly had been at his parish in Sodus and to celebrate the Year for Priests brought Kevin Hefferon of Sodus and his 12-year-old daughter, Rose, to the Mass.
"We wanted to be a part of that," Hefferon said.
Beautiful was an adjective that many attendees used to describe the Mass.
"I’m so glad I came," said Patty Janiak of Webster. "It was just beautiful."