By JULIANN DosSANTOS
From the words that Archbishop Timothy Dolan has written in his book about the priesthood to the words he has spoken, and most of all, to his actions, a clear picture emerges of a man with a deep joy and love for the priesthood.
In "Priests for the Third Millennium" (Our Sunday Visitor, 2000), a book on the priesthood based on his discussions and lectures to seminarians, Archbishop Dolan writes, "The priesthood is a call, not a career; a redefinition of self, not just a new ministry; a way of life, not a job; a state of being, not just a function; a permanent, lifelong commitment, not a temporary style of service; an identity, not just a role."
His enthusiasm for God and for those called to serve God and his people can be found throughout the book's pages. "You have seen priests who are men of love, who love Jesus and his bride, the Church, passionately, and who radiate the joy, compassion and conviction that flow from such a furnace of love," he writes, "You would not be where you are today had you not been blessed with such examples."
Likewise, in an interview with CNY, Archbishop Dolan said, "I had the tremendous example of the priests in my parish growing up. They were happy men, prayerful men. I wanted to be like them."
He went on to say that it's his hope that such examples will increase vocations in New York. "Joy attracts joy," he said.
"Passion! That's what zeal is about! We're excited! We're eager! We're raring to go! We've got the chutzpa, nerve, energy, drive and zest of the apostles that first Pentecost morning," he writes in "Priests for the Third Millennium."
In that same chapter, he also writes, "Ordination reconfigures us to Christ at the core of our being, that we are priests before God and his Church, that priesthood is forever and faithful, that what we do as priests must flow from who we are, from our priestly identity...It is a gift, an identity, all right, but one that by its nature constantly compels us to selfless, sacrificial love and service of God's people."
During his initial press conference in New York, he exemplified that love when he told priests, those in religious life, and all Catholics in the archdiocese, "I can tell you already that I love you."
Speaking to CNY, Father Donald J. Hying, rector at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, said, "He is just a walking billboard of someone who is in love with God, the Church and the priesthood."
St. Francis de Sales has seen an increase in ordinations, and this year expects to graduate six men to be ordained, a number not reached since 1992. Father Hying also said the seminary expects to see class sizes of similar numbers for the next five or six years. Noting that the Milwaukee Archdiocese has some 700,000 Catholics, he said, "Proportionately, that's pretty good."
Father Hying explained that Archbishop Dolan has shown a personal interest in the seminarians and priestly vocations. "He knew them all very well," he said, adding that it was characteristic of Archbishop Dolan to hold days of reflection for the seminarians, celebrate Mass for them and invite them over for dinner. That love for the priests in the archdiocese went beyond graduation, as well.
Archbishop Dolan would call the priests in the archdiocese on their birthdays, on their ordination anniversaries and at Christmastime, Father Hying said. He also added with sincere admiration that Archbishop Dolan would also invite those seminarians and priests with nowhere to go for the holidays to his own family table.
"His support of the priests here is exemplary," he said, adding, "I don't know how he does it, it is just amazing."
Father Hying told CNY that Archbishop Dolan, in all of his assignments over the years, has "never lost the sense of being a parish priest for the people."
He said that Archbishop Dolan has a love for Christ and his Church, and sees the priesthood as a way to "be a mediator of Christ to others." A role, he said, that the archbishop does with joy, energy and passion.
He added, "People of New York are in for a treat. I know you will love him as much as we do."