Jubilarians: A priest’s heart always battling for his flock

28 diocesan priests celebrate milestone anniversaries of their ordination

Priests celebrating milestone anniversaries of their ordination are seen during a Mass held in their honor June 20 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

 

 

Detroit — Twenty-eight diocesan priests are celebrating milestone anniversaries of their ordination this year. The jubilarians, who are celebrating 25, 40, 50, 60 years and above, gathered June 20 for a Mass in their honor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron presiding.

“It’s a great blessing, and an opportunity for the whole presbyterate and the whole archdiocese to acknowledge these years of grace and join you in thanksgiving to God,” the archbishop said.

A 29th priest, Fr. Donald Kuntz, who died June 13 at the age of 99, would have celebrated his 72nd year of priesthood. He was the oldest and longest-tenured priest of the archdiocese.

Commenting on the day’s readings, which saw St. Paul describe his emotion of “jealousy” toward his flock, praying that they wouldn’t be corrupted by evil, the archbishop related it to the heart of the priesthood.

The offerings of the altar are seen with the jubilarian priests in the background during a celebratory Mass at the seminary June 20.

“It is truly about love,” he said. “This love that the Apostle Paul, that every priest has, for those entrusted to his care, those ones to whom he is sent, the ones whom he is given, and for whom he gives himself.”

Msgr. Russell Kohler, celebrating 40 years of priesthood, likened the work a priest to a constant battle against the “culture of death.” He recalled his first assignment at Assumption (Grotto) Parish in Detroit, burying four young people a month as victims of heroin overdose. After his jubilee Mass, he was leaving to preside over the funeral of another young heroin addict from Port Huron.

“So we’re still battling,” said Msgr. Kohler, pastor of Most Holy Trinity and St. Anne de Detroit parishes in Detroit. “It’s like bookends. But I think the Lord gives each priest a specialty. … I would say there’s still a lot of work to do,” he added.

Fr. Kevin Thomas, who is celebrating his 25th year as a priest, agreed that priests continue to face challenges. He told The Michigan Catholic he saw his jubilee as just the “beginning” of his ministry.

But, he said, the most rewarding aspect is “sharing with people the joys, the sorrows, the challenges and the triumphs of our life here on earth.”

Asked what advice he’d give to young men considering the priesthood today, Fr. Thomas said there’s nothing more worthwhile a man can do. “Try it. It’s a good life,” he said. “We are most like God when we are creative and sharing His Word with others, and we’re all called to build God’s kingdom.”