What is Priesthood Sunday?
Priesthood Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, is a special day set aside to honor priesthood in the United States. It is a day to reflect upon and affirm the role of the priesthood in the life of the Church as a central one. Note: Parishes may choose to celebrate Priesthood Sunday on another Sunday when it is convenient for them. This nationwide event is coordinated and sponsored by the US Council of Serra International.
Why is Priesthood Sunday important?
Catholics are invited to observe Vatican-backed worldwide events, namely, World Day of Prayer for Vocations and World Day for Consecrated Life. In the United States, we also have National Vocation Awareness Week and National Catholic Sisters Week. Priesthood Sunday, however, specifically honors priests, without whom the Mass could not be offered and Sacraments could not be celebrated.
More than the other events listed above, Priesthood Sunday is a more personal one for parishes and organizations with a chaplain. It is for those who cultivate close working relationships with their priests and therefore could benefit from a special day to express their gratitude. It’s a chance to thank and honor priests in unique ways.
It is essential to note that the number of priests and ordinations in the United States has steadily declined in the past 50 years. Meanwhile, the number of parishes without a resident priest pastor has sharply increased in the same period of time. (See the official statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) here.) The men who answer the call to priesthood are special indeed, and they are working harder than ever before.
How do I celebrate Priesthood Sunday in my parish?
You can make your Priesthood Sunday observation as elaborate or as simple as you wish. From a special prayer service, to a feast, to a spiritual bouquet, to songs from children, your parish can tailor the event to suit their own style. Parish vocation ministries should take the lead in coordinating the celebrations.
In 2017, the US Council of Serra International developed the Serra Promotion and Resource Kit (SPARK), a new online resource for Serra clubs and Parish Vocation Committees. SPARK tool #11 offers Priesthood Sunday support with various links.
I’m a Serran, and my club supports and promotes the priesthood year-round. What’s my role in Priesthood Sunday?
Most priests know Serrans support them; but Priesthood Sunday is the day when the entire community can show up to join in the work and joy that is more often than not the specific role of Serrans. Therefore, the role of Serrans is to get the word out about Priesthood Sunday into parishes where there is no Serra club, and to invite others to help plan events and find out why Serra’s ministry is so special.
Tips and Ideas for Priesthood Sunday in Your Parish
Promote Priesthood Sunday in your parish bulletin at least four weeks in advance with details about how parishioners can participate and what they can expect at Mass on that day.
On Priesthood Sunday, feature a photo of your pastor and resident priests on the cover of the parish bulletin along with some words of tribute collected from parishioners and a brief bio inside.
Include the pictures, names and contact information of pastors and other priests who have moved on to different parishes or who have retired so parishioners can keep in touch.
Print a special blessing for your priests in the parish bulletin or on cards distributed in the pews. Have the congregation extend their hands over the priests and recite the blessing in unison at the end of the service on Priesthood Sunday. Click here to download a blessing prayer for priests.
For a week or two leading up to Priesthood Sunday, leave cards and pens in the back of the church for parishioners to fill out with words of gratitude and tribute for your priests. Framed photos of priests labeled with their names is a nice touch (and a handy reminder for proper spelling). Don’t forget to include a box or basket to hold completed cards. These can be presented to the priests on Priesthood Sunday along with the collection, or assembled into a book.
Decorate the the church with the Priesthood Sunday logo. Download it here.
Kids Can Help, Too:
Parish children can collaborate on a large scale mural, collage, or other artwork to honor their priests.
If your parish is attached to a school, part of religion classes leading up to Priesthood Sunday could be devoted to learning about priesthood: for example, the vestments, the priest’s role in the sacraments, etc. Younger children could benefit from free coloring pages found online (such as are found here and here).
Let the children interview priests during class time before they create cards or other art for him. They can ask him questions like, “What is your favorite color?” “What is your favorite food?” or “What do you love to do when you are not working?”
Older children can participate in an essay contest about the priesthood. The winning essay can be read aloud at Mass and/or printed in the bulletin.
If your priest has a unique vocation story, pitch it to the local diocesan paper and see if they will write up an article to coincide with Priesthood Sunday.
Let your diocesan paper know what you are planning to do for Priesthood Sunday, and be sure to send them photos of the celebration.
Consider buying an advertisement in the diocesan paper with the photos and names of your parish priests along with the number of their years of service and an expression of gratitude.
Don’t Forget Retired Priests:
Be sure to send gifts and wishes to priests who now live in retirement homes. Take them out for a meal or bring them back to the parish for Priesthood Sunday and whatever reception you may plan there after Mass.
What Are Your Plans for Priesthood Sunday? Please email the US Council of Serra International Vocations Committee and let us know so we can share your ideas and pictures in a future resource!