Msgr. Thomas Bohlin served as the speaker for the Priests' Lenten Spirituality Day March 9 in St. Luke Parish, Toms River.
Msgr. Thomas Bohlin served as the speaker for the Priests' Lenten Spirituality Day March 9 in St. Luke Parish, Toms River.
Growing in fortitude, a Gift of the Holy Spirit, in the exercise of priestly ministry was a focal point of reflection for Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and priests of the Diocese during their annual Lenten Spirituality Day.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2023 Priests' Lenten Spirituality Day

“Because of the challenges in our society and the opposition to the Gospel message, it’s easy for priests to become discouraged,” Father Pablo T. Gadenz said, referring to the keynote address given by Msgr. Thomas G. Bohlin, assistant vicar for the Prelature of Opus Dei (Work of God) for the United States.

Instead, Msgr. Bohlin offered perspective saying that priests “must keep growing and try to go deeper in their mission,” said Father Gadenz, suggesting, “This is what we can try to do during Lent.

“We can begin by changing ourselves before we try to change the world. We should strive to be a role model, inspiring our parishioners. We should keep growing until we die, never reaching a plateau but challenging ourselves to go deeper.”

Father Gadenz, a priest of the Diocese who currently teaches in Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., was among the 100 priests to attend the spirituality day hosted by the diocesan Office of Clergy and Consecrated Life in St. Luke Church, Toms River.

"As Bishop, I am always encouraged to be in the presence of our priests at Advent and Lenten Spirituality Days,” said Bishop O’Connell. 

“They are a ‘pause that refreshes’ spiritually speaking. Our priests have the chance to focus their attention on some aspect of priestly life and ministry with their fellow priests,” the Bishop said, noting “It is so important in these days to share priestly fraternity and fellowship. It has a direct influence on building community within our parishes and organizations.”

In his address, Msgr. Bohlin referenced two Churchmen who remained persistent in their work and faith under difficult circumstances – St. Thomas More, who died a martyr after he was convicted of treason, and Archbishop John Hughes, the first archbishop of New York in the 1850s and 1860s, who built St. Patrick’s Cathedral despite the Civil War and the anti-Catholic sentiment of the time.

Msgr. Bohlin encouraged priests to have the confidence of the early Christians,” such as St. Paul, who believed God’s plan would prevail despite the hardships he faced in spreading the Gospel, said Father Gadenz, who was appreciative of the pointers Msgr. Bohlin offered on small ways priests can sow seeds that will bear fruit, such as conversations with their people.

“As for parishes, Msgr. Bohlin said that with fewer people attending Mass after the pandemic, it is an opportunity to build community with the people who do come,” Father Gadenz said.

Significant insights gleaned from the day by Father Thomas Vala, pastor, St. Clement, Matawan, were the importance of priests taking care of themselves, finding time for prayer and remembering that a priest can change himself.

“When I choose to change from being negative to positive and hopeful, I can inspire others and be able to help change the world,” said Father Vala.