Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Mass for 50 Years of Priesthood and Attends Interfaith Walk

Monday, December 19, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Sunday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, commemorated the 50th anniversary of his ordination with a celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. In honor of the cardinal’s milestone anniversary and the archdiocese’s ongoing effort to highlight the charitable works of the Catholic Church, the Fiat used to transport Pope Francis when he was in Washington in September 2015 was parked outside the cathedral and used to collect non-perishable items before the Mass. The collection benefitted the food pantry at the Spanish Catholic Center of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Cardinal Wuerl was ordained to the priesthood on December 17, 1966 at Saint Peter’s Basilica. 2016 marked a year of personal milestones for the cardinal, who earlier this year marked thirty years as a bishop (January 6, 1986) and ten years as archbishop of Washington (2006). For his priestly ordination anniversary, the cardinal wore the same purple vestments that he had worn 50 years earlier, and used the chalice that his parents had given him for his first Mass. The entrance song at the Mass, “Proclaim the Good News,” included newly commissioned hymn text by J. Michael Thompson to celebrate the cardinal’s anniversary.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the joy of his priesthood and expressed gratitude to God for his vocation. He encouraged the congregation to ask for grace from God to hear their own calls, and to be open to his love. Advent is a special time to focus attention on God speaking to us, he said. Vocations are not limited to the priesthood, the cardinal continued. “The call to Holiness is the vocation – but mediated in a specific way of life.”

For Cardinal Wuerl, he felt the call to priesthood, to follow Christ. “Priesthood is sharing in the redemptive work of Jesus as he continues in our world today,” he noted. When the cardinal ordains new priests and installs pastors in parishes, he is reminded of the priest’s work: to celebrate the Eucharist, pass on the Gospel, work with bishops to build up unity of the Church, and unite one’s self to Christ.

At the end of the Mass,  Bishop Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington, presented the cardinal with a pectoral cross on behalf of the Archdiocese of Washington. The cross, depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd tending to his flock, is similar to the one worn today by Pope Francis. The Holy Father recently gave an apostolic blessing to Cardinal Wuerl, the clergy and the faithful of the Church of Washington on the occasion of the cardinal’s anniversary. “Through these years of priestly ministry, your Eminence has shared abundantly that perfect gift of Jesus Christ that you received – which is the gift of love – in your pastoral service, charity, teachings, celebration of the sacred mysteries and in your service to the New Evangelization,” said Bishop Knestout.

The bishop noted that “a pectoral cross, as the name suggests, is worn close to the heart, just as the love of Jesus is in our hearts.” Then he added, “Your Eminence, from our heart to yours, we give you this gift.”

Later in the afternoon, Cardinal Wuerl joined local area religious leaders for an interfaith unity walk and prayer service. Faith groups represented included the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington National Cathedral, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church and the Islamic Center of Washington. The walking pilgrimage through D.C. streets was an effort to demonstrate a shared commitment of those with different religious backgrounds to unity, understanding, and inclusion. Cardinal Wuerl led the attendees in the Prayer of Saint Francis, and at each pilgrimage stop, there was a short reading and reflection shared.

# # #

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
[email protected]