When I saw this front-page headline in The New York Times this morning I groaned (at least inwardly): "In Graying Priesthood, New York's Grayest Keeps Faith in Bronx." I expected another mournful article like "For New York Archdiocese's One New Priest, a Lonely Distinction," a well-reported but depressing piece on dwindling vocations, accompanied by a photo of a sad-faced new priest sitting alone in the empty seminary chapel. Today's headline betokened another sad article about a sad reality.
But today's story by Sharon Otterman (who also wrote the previous piece) was a great inspiration. It is a beautiful profile of Msgr. Gerald Ryan, New York's oldest working priest, at 92, who offers some great life lessons for contemporary priests and contemporary Catholics.
“I think I have come a long, long way from when I was ordained,” he said. As a seminarian, he said, he liked the idea of saying Mass, hearing confession and being addressed as “father,” but that was “like a fairy tale.”
“It isn’t about serving the church in the way you have envisioned, from the altar, and from the position of authority and power,” he said. “But it is learning what human nature is, and what the struggles of people are. And where Jesus really is.”
Do yourself a favor and read about Msgr. Ryan here.