One thing I learned quickly five years ago this summer when the newly elected Pope Francis named me the Bishop of El Paso is that the Church here is rich. I believe El Paso is one of the richest Dioceses in the country! Ok, so maybe we are not so rich in the way you think I mean. We are truly rich in our people, in our history, in our culture. We are rich in the way we live out our Catholic Faith! When we pray miracles happen!
Although we don’t have the financial resources many other Dioceses can draw upon I have noticed that when we recognize a real need we are capable of mustering the financial resources as well. For instance, when we were called to take up a special collection in response to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey to assist the Diocese of Beaumont, whose churches and schools had been devastated by the flooding, we raised an incredible $118,467.09 in one weekend.
In reading this newspaper you will see that our Diocese has been blessed in ways we might not have even dared to hope for a number of years ago. Around 2013 the number of seminarians studying for our Diocese was down to eleven. This was not enough to even keep our existing parishes staffed, much less to respond to the growth of the Catholic population and the need for new parishes. The Diocese began a campaign of prayer. Many parishes began reciting a prayer for vocations during every Mass.
I would have to say the prayer has borne fruit! Today we have 27 seminarians studying for our Diocese. In May we ordained two men to the Diaconate. This month we will ordain two new priests. Later this summer we hope to welcome around eight new excellent candidates to study for the priesthood in our Diocese. Vocations are signs that God is working in our families and communities, calling forth young men from here and from elsewhere to meet the needs of today and tomorrow. Yes, miracles are happening and we are most blest!
It is hard to overstate how important priests are to the life and health of the Church. While all of the Baptized have essential roles in the life of our faith, priests are the motor that keep us going. Who among us cannot tell a story about how a priest helped us or our family in our journey of faith. They baptize our babies, teach us and our children, inspire us by their preaching and example. They forgive our sins, witness our marriages, anoint us when we are seriously ill, they console us in our losses and bury our dead.
As leaders of our parishes in union with the bishop they are the ones who call us together as a community. They are people who have given their lives to the service of God and his People. So complete is their commitment that they live chaste and celibate lives so that they themselves, in their very persons, can be signs that God’s Kingdom is among us.
Now that God is hearing our prayer for priests I am confident that the next miracle God intends to accomplish will be through us. The preparation a man needs to be formed in holiness and knowledge necessary to serve as a priest is intensive and costly, but it pays dividends for years to come.
Please be our next miracle by supporting this great and urgent need through the Bishops’ Appeal! Your donation, whether great or small will make you part of God’s great work in this blest Diocese.
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz