As scheduled in the diocesan calendar (Thiès), the celebration of the day of sanctification of priests was held on Friday 8 June 2018 at the parish of Saint Peter-Julian Eymard in Koudiadiène. Priests from the four deaneries of the diocese came in great numbers to celebrate this day.
The day was also the occasion for the whole presbyterate of Thiès to show its gratitude and recognition towards Father Nino Donda, who after 31 years of his presence as a missionary in Senegal, 13 of these years being in the diocese, will be definitively leaving Senegal on Sunday 17 June to undertake a new mission.
The following is a brief summary of the conference on the theme: The mission of the Priest.
The whole Eucharistic celebration begins with a very important gesture that for the most part has become banal insofar as we have become accustomed to carrying out the liturgy. It is, however, a gesture so symbolic: we kiss the altar, the altar that we then incense. The altar recalls three events that are at the heart of the whole Christian life.
- The altar is above all the Table of the paschal meal around Jesus, recalling Holy Thursday.
- The altar is the Table of the sacrifice, signifying the cross, recalling Good Friday.
- Finally, the altar represents the empty tomb, humbly witnessing to the victory of the Risen Lord, thus indeed calling to mind Easter morning.
In the gesture of kissing the altar, as priests we underline the fact that we are men of Holy Thursday, of Good Friday and Sunday of the Resurrection. Apropos these three meanings, the altar points to the triple identity of the priestly and diaconal ministry. A priest is a man of communion. Christ’s expressed his meeting with us in friendship at the Last Supper: “I no longer call you servants, but friends,” Jesus said at the moment of washing the disciples’ feet. By this, Jesus implies two little questions: Do you want to love me? Do you want to make me loved?
The priest is also a man of Good Friday. He presents on the altar Christ’s sacrifice at every Eucharist. Priestly ordination entails embracing Christ’s Cross. This is what the rite of kissing the altar emphasises. Priestly holiness is linked to Calvary. A priest takes pride in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus does not approach a person empty-handed; he always brings his Cross. We are disciples of a crucified Teacher.
A priest is above all the witness of Easter morning. His mission consists in celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord until he comes, and of providing the sacramental signs of this. On behalf of everyone, a priest bears witness to the hope of this ascension towards the Father.
For the love of the Church
We are priests because we desire to share a passion: that of Christ. If we are priests it is because of him and nothing else. It is of him that we want to speak. It is thanks to him that we have become servants of our brothers.
We base our life on him. And what we have left behind to follow him is the price of our passion for Christ. The life of Christ is the meaning of our life insofar as we adopt his way of life through renouncing what consists in a habitual stable condition in existence: life of marriage and family, a job, a social status... in order to be fully available for his service. For this reason, our life as priests cannot be understood except as being a radical response to what Jesus asks of us: “to love him and make him loved.” We have committed all our desires, our will to this choice, to this orientation of living so that our centre is no longer entirely ourselves, but henceforth Christ. Our life is Christ.
A Minister of the Church
No one is a priest for himself. A priest is at the service of the Church’s holiness. In celebrating the sacraments a priest underlines that the Church is Christ’s Church. A priest’s vocation is to bring the people of God who are entrusted to him into the holiness of God, which pertains to the Church’s holiness.
On behalf of the Eucharist
At every Chrism Mass a priest renews his priestly commitments. Christ has chosen from among his people those who through the laying on of hands will have a priestly ministry. The best catechesis about the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, well celebrated. A priest has the responsibility to rediscover personally the beauty of the signs contained in the liturgy and to foster its rediscovery.
The theological mission of the priest
Like all the baptised the priest must believe, hope and love. However, he has to do this in the manner of the apostles, namely, in teaching the people entrusted to him.
- A priest must first of all be a man of faith. He must have faith in his own ministry. The first loyalty required of a priest is to continue to believe in his own ministry.
- A priest is a man of hope. Hope is trust in God coming to find me. A priest’s hope, his secret desire, which drives his prayer and endeavours, is so that each person may come to Jesus and that, through his ministry, Jesus be approached by each one.
- A priest is a man of charity.
Father Antoine Ndong, sss