Parishioners Say Amen to the Good Work of Priests

By John J. Shaughnessy
Indianapolis Star [Indianapolis IN]
October 25, 2003

The celebration will begin by taking the Rev. Steven Schwab to his favorite Greek restaurant for dinner tonight.

Then the parishioners of Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Catholic Church in Indianapolis will get the opportunity at this weekend's Masses to lavish Schwab with thanks for all he has done as their pastor, their priest.

It's all part of Priesthood Sunday, a new effort by Catholic parishes across the country to show their support and appreciation for their priests.

"Most of the press about priests nowadays has been unfavorable with the concern about sexual abuse," says Joe Dwenger, who is leading Nativity's celebration of Schwab. "We know there are many good priests out there, and this is one way of thanking them."

"Priesthood Sunday" is the brainchild of the National Federation of Priests' Council.

"People in the pews are anxious to show their support for their own priests in light of the sex abuse scandal," says Frank Corrado, a spokesman for the Chicago-based organization.

Corrado also views the one-day event as an opportunity for priests and the Catholic faithful to begin to discuss the future of the church, especially considering the decline in the number of priests. He notes that only 4,000 of the 19,000 parishes in the United States have more than one priest. And some priests serve two or more parishes.

There are about 44,000 priests in the United States, where Catholics number more than 66 million. There are 269 priests serving the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, where Catholics number about 231,000.

"Affirmation for anyone at anytime is a good thing," says the Rev. Steve Banet, pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church on the Far Southside. "We have Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, and all those kinds of things have value. Being grateful -- not only for priests but for ministry and volunteerism -- is important."

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel is grateful to have three priests serving its parish, according to parishioner Scott Cunningham, the organizer of "Priesthood Sunday" events there.

"We're encouraging parishioners to send a thank-you note and have family prayer time for the priests," Cunningham says. "We want to recognize what great treasures we have in our priests."


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