The Gift of Our Priests – Reflections from World Youth Day

by Maria Cossell

Like my fellow pilgrims that traveled to Krakow for World Youth Day, I journeyed with specific intentions in mind.  My prayer and hope was to see fruits for these particular intentions by offering up sufferings.  Little did I know what prayer intention the Lord would actually place on my heart while I was in Poland.

One day Fr. Eric Augenstein graciously took a small group of young adults on a tour of sites that pertained specifically to the life of St. John Paul II.  As we stood outside St. John Paul II’s home parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka, Fr. Eric  recounted how the church was run by a group of Salesians.  All of the priests except one who was in his eighties were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis.  Eleven priests who served this church died for their faith.  They freely chose to love and follow Jesus till their last breath.  

All of a sudden I was overcome by a sense of sadness and anxiety.  At first I struggled to understand why I was feeling this way.  For five years I have taught sixth graders about World War II.  Each year I talk about how priests were killed.  I talk to my students about the truth of underground churches currently in our world.  Fr. Eric’s story should have come to no surprise for me.  However, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Without priests we, the Church cannot come into union with Christ in the very intimate way of the Eucharist.  I never want to live in a time period where it is a struggle to be able to receive the heart of our Lord in communion.  

It was then I realized how I take for granted the gift of the priesthood and the presence of Jesus in the holy sacrament of the altar. On any day of the week I have a plethora of churches and mass times to choose from.  I can pop into an adoration chapel any time I feel like it, no matter the hour of the day.

Without the gift of the priesthood I as well as others would not be able to encounter Christ in the presence of the Eucharist.  I would not be able to  participate in the highest form of prayer on Earth.  These men have pledged their lives for the Church.  They humbly and tirelessly give of themselves so that we draw closer to our Savior.  Their spiritual fatherhood is so crucial to our physical, emotional, and spiritual life.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit they give us the Eucharist.

They are present at our darkest and happiest moments of our lives, from funerals and confessionals to weddings and baptisms.  They are our spiritual fathers that gaze on us with the eyes of Christ as they counsel and teach us.  They give us so much.  What do we give them in return?  How can we thank them for saying yes to their vocation?  These men are on the front line of the battle against the enemy on Earth.  How can we, their flock, support them?  

Prayer, that is the answer.  How often do we pray for specific priests?  I realize that I have not done a good job at doing this.  In Poland I promised myself and God that I would become better at this.  In my heart I felt a desire to pray for priests by name and felt that all the priests in the Archdiocese deserved this.  There is power in prayer and power in being specific in our intentions.  For the Lord tells us  “…ask and you will receive…”  (Luke 11:9).

That is when the Lord spoke to my heart and divinely inspired me.  I must reach out to those around me and ask them to pray daily for a specific priest.  The prayers of the flock will strengthen our shepherd on earth, whether it be committing to offering up a daily mass, praying a rosary or Memorare, offering up daily sacrifices, or praying as a family before meals.

There are currently over one hundred forty priests in the Archdiocese.  I would love for nothing more than to thank these priests and support them all by having people pray for them by name.  I ask that you prayerfully consider if the Lord is calling you to this.  If you discern the Lord is calling you to be a prayer warrior for one of our Archdiocesan priests, please contact me, Maria Cossell, at  I will then send you the name of a priest in our Archdiocese.

Thanks to Maria for organizing this and to all of you who will commit to praying for a priest by name each day. The office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry hopes to get 140 young adults to join Maria in prayer!

mariaMaria Cossell (right) is a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc and teaches sixth grade religion and social studies at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  What she enjoys the most about her job is teaching her students “Theology of the Body.”  When she is not busy teaching she enjoys spending time with friends and family, running, singing, and traveling.

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