OMAHA, Neb. — Stories of Catholic priests' "creativity, sacrifice and compassionate service" during this time of the coronavirus have inspired an effort led by the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha to recognize and celebrate "these spiritual fathers" on Father's Day, which is June 21.
These priests are among "the front-line workers, especially during the pandemic and social unrest, continue to inspire us as we witness their selfless acts," said a June 8 news release.
The institute said it is calling on all people to remember their spiritual fathers by sending Father's Day wishes via a card, email, text or phone call "as an expression of gratitude for all they have and continue to do -- especially for reminding us of God's abundant graces as we navigate these challenging times."
"We have so many reasons to say thank you. The pandemic and social unrest have definitely underscored our need for happy, healthy, holy priests," Mary Buttell, president of the Institute for Priestly Formation Foundation, said in a statement. "Our priests are among the many selfless front-line responders. We thought Father's Day offered the perfect opportunity for people to express their appreciation."
Over the past several weeks, she said, the institute has heard story after story of its alumni who have found creative ways to hear confessions in parking lots during the nation's lockdown because of COVID-19.
They have livestreamed Masses to their congregations as well as consoled "disappointed couples and grief-stricken families who were allowed only 10 people to attend their wedding or funeral services," she said.
Priests also have offered support to those who have lost their livelihood due to the shutdown and been on call to anoint COVID-19 patients "and then isolate so as to not put anyone else's health at risk," Buttell added. Priest also are ministering at this time to victims of violence, she said.
"Everyone appreciates being appreciated," she said. "So, we hope many, many people will reach out to their priests and let them know they make a difference and that their work is appreciated."
The Institute for Priestly Formation, www.priestlyformation.org, offers spiritual resources to priests. It also runs an annual nine-week summer program on the campus of Jesuit-run Creighton University’s campus in Omaha to enhance spiritual formation of diocesan seminarians from the U.S. and Canada.
When it was founded 25 years ago this year, the institute said it had six seminarians for its program, and to date it has served more than 3,000 seminarians and more than 1,000 priests from 165 U.S. dioceses and 55 international dioceses.