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How Your Parish Priest is Renewed Each Year
Everyone needs some time to relax and recharge the batteries. The same can be said for your parish priest. The first week of October marks “Convocation Week” in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. This year’s event took place at Bethany Center in Lutz, Florida with more than 100 priests in attendance.
The Convocation for Priestly Renewal is an annual gathering of the clergy for fellowship, rest and an opportunity to learn more about a particular issue involving the church. The word convocation comes from the word “convoke.” In this case, Bishop Gregory Parkes convokes the assembly of priests to come together for a time of renewal and prayer. This time of renewal is inspired from different Gospel events by Jesus gathering his Disciples to come together in a somewhat remote location for prayer, instruction, and rest.
The theme this year was, “Rebuild the Family, Transform the World.” The keynote speakers were Mike and Alicia Hernon of The Messy Family Project. The couple presented ideas for how parish priests can better serve families.
“Obviously the family is central in the life of society and in the life of the Church, so we had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing the family and how we can be part of a creative solution to help address those challenges,” said Father Ralph D’Elia, Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of Saint Jude the Apostle.
The Convocation also served as a time of celebration. Each year, at the Tuesday evening dinner banquet, the clergy present the Father Luis de Cancer Distinguished Priestly Service Award. The award, named in honor of the Proto-Martyr of Florida, is given to a priest serving the diocese who best exemplifies selfless and dedicated service to the people of God. This year’s recipient was Monsignor Ron Aubin, the recently retired pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Land o’ Lakes. The annual award is voted on by brother priests of the diocese.
Each priest comes away with something different from the Convocation.
“My goal is to continue to build excitement in our clergy about promoting vocations.” says Father Chuck Dornquast. As Vocations Director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Father Chuck sees this as, “one of the few opportunities when all of the priests of the diocese get together and I’m able to encourage them to go into their parishes and promote vocations.”
There are also several ministry vendors who showcase everything from liturgical pieces and vestments to bulletin publishers, web designers and musical instruments for worship. Our diocesan radio station Spirit FM 90.5 also broadcasts their morning show annually from the event, interviewing local clergy and presenters.
The convocation serves as a time to build relationships in ministry.
“I was looking around at evening prayer last night, and I thought, ‘you know what, there’s a few guys here I’ve never seen before.’ So this is a chance for me to get to know them,” says Father D’Elia.
The Diocese has more than 200 priests serving the five-county region.
“Some of the priests I haven’t seen in couple of years because we didn’t have the Convocation last year. It’s always good to listen to what others are saying,” adds Father Gerald Hendry, St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church Pastor.
“Having all of my brother priests here more than anything else reminds me that I’m not alone. It reminds me that there are others in the trenches with us working to bring others closer to God, so it fills me with confidence that I’m not alone,” says Father Connor Penn, Parochial Vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. “I can see the value more than ever of taking that time to recharge.” The first-year priest adds laughingly, “because if not, I’m just going to be a grumpy...well I won’t say grumpy old priest, because I’m not in that category yet, but I don’t want to be a grumpy priest who is not able to give my best to the people.”
Bishop Parkes understands the importance for his priests to have some time of fellowship and sharing and encourages the faithful in the pews to help the priests in a very powerful way.
“As bishop, I try not to ask too much of our people, but one thing I do ask is that they love our priests, that they support them, and that they pray for them. We pray for everybody and for your families, and we just ask that you remember to pray for us once in a while,” Bishop Parkes said.
To find out more about the presenters at the convocation visit www.messyfamilyproject.org.