The Holy Spirit has summoned an impressive array of individuals, personalities and temperaments to the Priesthood throughout the decades of this diocese’s existence.
“Some were here when the diocese began, coming here or maybe finding themselves here when it was formed out of the existing dioceses of the State of Missouri,” stated Father Christopher Cordes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia and diocesan vicar for priests.
“Some are native to the diocese; others came to us from other states or as missionary priests from other countries,” he noted.
Some ministered for many years here, others for only a short time before being called back to the Lord.
“Some served for decades in one parish and became local legends,” Fr. Cordes pointed out. “Others served in many parishes over the course of their Priesthood.
“Some were known for being outstanding preachers, teachers, pastors, homilists, confessors or models of other aspects of the Priesthood,” he said.
“Some are referred to as characters, others as saints — some both!”
But all of those priests, living and deceased, have one thing in common.
“At the heart of the Priesthood and of each priest’s ministry is the celebration of the Eucharist among the people we are called to serve,” Fr. Cordes reminded Bishop W. Shawn McKnight and his brother priests of this diocese.
Fr. Cordes preached the homily for this year’s Mass for Deceased Priests, celebrated Nov. 9, during the Octave of All Souls, in St. Andrew Church in Holts Summit.
Bishop McKnight presided at the Mass. A large contingent of priests of the diocese concelebrated.
“Today,” said Fr. Cordes, “we gather to remember and give thanks for and pray for priests who ministered here ahead of us.
“Most of all,” he continued, “we are here to pray for them.”
“No more sadness”
Fr. Cordes noted that the priests of the past, like their present counterparts, manifested great faithfulness but also sinfulness.
“And whatever that process of getting to heaven is, it is good and important for us to pray for all of those who have gone before us,” he said.
He pointed to the reading from 2 Maccabees, in which the book’s author honors praying for the dead and believing that they will be raised up again.
Likewise, the reading from Revelation pointed to an eternal state of existence “where there is no more sadness, no more tears, no more suffering, no more meetings, no more irate people, no more complicated decisions to make.”
“All of those things pass to the side, leaving only the fullness of joy, the fullness of glory in the presence of God,” said Fr. Cordes.
“And it is that journey, that destination, that we believe those who have passed in faith will go to,” he stated, “and that our prayers will help them eventually get there.”
It’s important to keep praying “that that will happen soon,” he said.
Fr. Cordes invited his fellow priests also to reflect on those who have gone before them and ask the Lord to be inspired by their example and their memory.
“As we pray for them, may they inspire us to faithful ministry, to faithful Priesthood, so that as we eventually reach that point when we will be listed among the deceased priests of the Diocese of Jefferson City, we will join them in that place of eternal light, happiness and peace that we believe is our destiny,” he said.
“Receive their souls”
Together, the assembly prayed for God to admit the priests who had died to the company of saints, raise up their earthly bodies on the last day, and grant them a share in the Heavenly Liturgy they celebrated diligently in this life.
“May the prayers of those who cry to You benefit the souls of Your servants, O Lord,” Bishop McKnight prayed. “Free them from all their sins and make them sharers of Your redemption. Through Christ, our Lord.”
After Holy Communion, Monsignor David Cox, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Wardsville and St. Margaret of Antioch Parish in Osage Bend, and Father Michael Penn, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Ozark, read the names of priests of this diocese who died since its founding in 1956.
Between each section of names, the priests and people called upon the saints in heaven to receive their souls and “present them now to God Most High.”
The priests and bishop then chanted the “Salve Regina” — “Hail Holy Queen” — which the priests traditionally sing at the end of the Funeral Mass for one of their own.
Deacon Edward Stroesser, who assists the pastor of St. Andrew Parish, and his wife Valda Stroesser accompanied and led the singing throughout the Mass.
Afterward, the priests gathered in the welcoming area of the church, where St. Andrew parishioners served them a meal.
Laughter filled the room as they shared stories and memories of priests they had ministered with and been inspired by.