Celebrate Year of the Priest with joy - bishops tell clergy

Antilles Episcopal Conference 53rd Annual Plenary Meeting,
Fort de France Martinique
29 April 2009

Message to the Priests of the Antilles Episcopal Conference

The Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference greet the priests of the Region: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of
hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father
(I Thess. 1:2-4).Your vocation is a lofty one, in imitation of Jesus Christ of whom the writer of Hebrews says, “Chosen by God from among the People”.

To facilitate a deepening of the spirituality of priestly service and witness, we, the Bishops of the Conference, bring to your attention the announcement of the “Year of the Priest” by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. It will open on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 19, 2009. It will close a year later on the same date with a World Meeting of Priests in Rome.

We ask that this special year be celebrated in each diocese of the Conference with seriousness and joy. The theme of the year is: “Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests”. The patron of the year is St. John Vianney. 2009 is the 150th anniversary of his death. He was a priest who was present to his people. He visited them, taught them and reconciled them.

Three levels of planning are already in place:

1)         The Congregation for the Clergy will publish a collection of texts from the Holy Father for reflection on themes essential to the priestly life and mission in the world;

2)         The Congregation for the Clergy will publish a Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors;

3)         The Congregation for the Clergy in dialogue with Diocesan Bishops and Superiors of Religious Institutes will promote and coordinate pastoral initiatives to help the people appreciate the mission of priests in the Church and help priests appreciate the need for continuing formation and for associating that formation with seminarians.

Sacred Scripture, especially Jesus’ teaching to his Disciples, Paul’s Pastoral Letters and the Letter to the Hebrews, together with the above mentioned sources of spirituality will provide material for gatherings of priests for study and retreat, for spiritual reading and reflection
and for priestly renewal and recommitment.  In addition, we recommend that each priest read reflectively the address of the Holy Father to the Congregation for the Clergy which is attached to this letter.

Finally, the Year of the Priest should challenge the entire Presbyterate of the Antilles Episcopal Conference to renew their commitment to the ministry of vocation recruitment for the priesthood, to the care for vocations to the priesthood and for journeying with candidates for the priesthood.   Furthermore, let us not forget that vocations are nurtured on the Word of God and the Eucharist.

Once again, we thank the priests of the region for their collaboration as we serve witness and try to build the kingdom together by sanctifying, teaching and
shepherding.

Signed by the Bishops of the Conference