August 15, 2008

Serra Club vocations essay

Diocesan priests can have great influence on youths

By Zach Hartley (Special to The Criterion)

Zach HartleyBy definition, a priest is someone who performs and administers religious rites.

When we think of priests, we often think of them as the people who say Mass; those who baptize and forgive sins. This is true. These are duties of a priest. However, certain individuals— priests in our own archdiocese— go above and beyond the everyday duties of the priesthood.

These young priests have done an absolutely phenomenal job at inspiring the youths and young adults in our community. Father Shaun Whittington, whom I had the privilege of knowing when he was a seminarian, and Father Jonathan Meyer, the associate pastor at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, are two of these men.

Both priests have the ability to really connect with youths. They can get down on their level, and they use this to their advantage. They use this to teach them. They get young adults interested in the faith. The faith comes alive with them. Young people begin to look at their faith in ways they hadn’t before. They learn more about themselves, what they believe in and what it means to be Catholic.

Due to Father Whittington’s current assignment as instructor of Theology and chaplain at Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison, I have not been able to witness personally all that he has accomplished recently. However, as a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, I have been able to witness firsthand the impact of Father Meyer.

Upon Father Meyer’s arrival at St. Luke, the liturgical services received a serious upgrade. Whether it’s incense, bells or the use of candles at the Gospel, the Mass has become much more reverent.

Father Meyer also created a new group of high school altar servers. These young men are distinguished on the altar by their wearing of cassocks and surplices. This has helped to show younger kids that serving can be a “cool” thing that they can continue to be involved with as they get older.

Select individuals from this high school group are also trained as masters of ceremonies. These MC’s, along with Father Meyer, work to make every liturgical service as glorifying to God as possible, as well as keeping the congregation engaged at the same time.

Father Meyer also instituted a program known as First Thursdays. This program is designed to bring young men together to have a meal, discuss their faith, look over Scripture, pray together and discern what their own vocation might be.

This title, First Thursday, was chosen by Father Meyer because it was on a Thursday that Jesus and his disciples gathered for the last time to break bread and pray with one another. This was also the time when Jesus instituted the sacrament of holy orders. Therefore, it is on the first Thursday of every month that we gather in much the same way.

Father Meyer has done a fabulous job with the community as a whole. Whether it’s his work while at St. Luke or organizing a mission trip as director of youth ministry for the archdiocese, he is a major asset to our archdiocese and we are blessed to have him.

However, he is only one member of a wonderful community of diocesan priests. We are truly blessed in the Indianapolis Archdiocese to have so many great men who have heard and responded to God’s call to the priesthood.

Under the direction and leadership of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, and with veteran priests like Father Daniel Mahan, Father Stephen Giannini, and Father James Bonke, the archdiocese has drawn and developed young priests like Father Meyer and Father Whittington as well as Father Rick Nagel and Father Robert Robeson.

And with good, young seminarians in formation, such as John Hollowell and Benjamin Syberg, we are going to be “casting the nets” and leading our Catholic community for many years to come.

(Zach Hartley and his mother, Teresa Hartley, are members of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. Last spring, he completed the 11th grade at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and is the 11th-grade division winner in the 2008 Indianapolis Serra Club Vocations Essay Contest.)

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