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Heart of Christ Burns Brightly at Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference

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June 20, 2007 - 12:00 PDT


STEUBENVILLE, OH, JUNE 20, 2007 - Answering a call to "come away for awhile," attendees of the Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference spent June 11-15 at Franciscan University of Steubenville allowing God to reinvigorate them for ministry.

During the evening session on Monday night, Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, chancellor of Franciscan University, welcomed conference attendees and encouraged them to set everything aside to spend time with Jesus and their brothers in the priesthood and diaconate.

Throughout the week, attendees were encouraged to let the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds with the truth of faith so they can preach the Gospel to a darkened world. A variety of topics were covered in talks and workshops including celibacy for the kingdom, prayer, and Sacred Scripture.

The main address Monday night was given by Sister Briege McKenna, OSC, an Irish Sister of St. Clare, who has an international ministry to priests and bishops. Father Scanlan introduced her as "a tremendous blessing to the priesthood worldwide." Sister McKenna addressed the topic of priestly celibacy, which she called a "charism and call to freedom."

Speaking both to priests and married deacons, Sister McKenna opened by stating that there is a tremendous attack on both celibacy and marriage, two vocations which complement and mutually support one another. There is a need today for witnesses to both Christian marriage and Holy Orders.

The call to celibacy does not mean a denial of human love, nor that celibates are to be "consecrated refrigerators," said Sister McKenna. Rather, celibacy is a beautiful way to live one's sexuality. It is a call for priests to live "a virgin life" like the one they "stand under in persona Christi." God makes priests fruitful as the spiritual fathers of the faithful, to "spread the love of Jesus Christ."

"God looks at you and sees something very beautiful, your capacity to have a wife and children. He asks you, Will you give me everything? Will you give your sexuality to me that I may consecrate it for my kingdom and then give it back to you empowered?" said Sister McKenna.

Recognizing that the charism of celibacy does not mean a removal of the natural attraction to the opposite sex, Sister McKenna gave attendees guidance for living as a "happy and healthy celibate." Prayer, fervent love for the Blessed Mother and the Lord Jesus, taking care of one's mind, and being wise in one's relationships will help priests radiate Christ's love in their celibate vocation.

"Most important is to be a man of prayer. When we stop praying, the human spirit wounded by original sin takes over," said Sister McKenna.

She stated that priests are called to have every attribute of human fathers and told them to pray that they will love their people with the heart of a father. Through their ministry of bringing spiritual life to the faithful, she told them, "you are not barren, you have thousands of sons and daughters."

After her talk, Sister McKenna stated that the best way for the faithful to support their priests is to "pray for them and love them."

Tuesday morning, Father Francis Martin gave a talk titled "The Word Comes to Dwell." Father Martin has spoken at almost every Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference, giving over 200 talks at the annual conference through the years.

He called for a tolerance of other people's beliefs that is founded in a fear of God and commitment to the truth of faith. Father Martin advised attendees to open themselves up to receive the gifts of clarity of mind, love, and courage. He commented that for some this would mean a radical change of lifestyle, spending less time listening to secular culture and more time filling their mind with God's truth through prayer, Sacred Scripture, and spiritual reading.

Reminding them that Jesus risked his life to preach the truth, he called priests and deacons to courageously proclaim the full Gospel. "If your parishioners complain, smile and do it again. If you don't tell them the truth, who's going to tell it to them?"

A stirring call for priests to "burn with the heart of God" came during the Thursday evening address by Father Thomas Acklin, OSB, author of The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood and professor of theology and director of counseling at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

He urged his fellow priests to counter the "pervasive secularization" that has "driven religion to the margins of society" and created a public standard that only recognizes agnosticism, "if not outright atheism." To counter this trend he urged the priests, "Dress like priests in public. Constantly witness Christ, witness a culture of life, a culture of faith."

He shared that a new generation of seminarians enthusiastically embrace their calling. "They know that the flame at the heart of the priesthood is the heart of Christ. You tell them we're going to have a holy hour, and you'd think you gave them $1 million. That tells me that God is doing great things today."

Father Acklin said every seminarian and priest should spend an hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament. "Why pray in your room when you can pray before our Lord? And don't come to the Lord with a stack of books, with your portable library. Doing so we avoid the intimacy of the flame at the heart of Christ that can consume us. Be vulnerable before God. Be poor before God. Spend an hour of vulnerability before the very heart of God. If we give everything to him, he will give us much more in return."

This year's Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference marked the 33rd year for this annual conference. For more information on Franciscan University of Steubenville's summer conferences visit


Franciscan University of Steubenville
Tom Sofio - Ass.'t Director of Public Relations, 740 284-5893




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