50 Years of Ordination for Father Fran
12/21/2009 9:58 PM
This blog entry is a day late . . . I wanted to write yesterday, but frankly, my heart was still so overwhelmed that I was struggling to find words. Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Priestly Ordination of Msgr. Francis G. Weldgen. Well known around the diocese, and certainly known and beloved by the youth ministry community in Buffalo and throughout the country, Father Fran has left an indelible mark on youth ministry, and on countless hearts . . . including mine.
Father Fran served as the Associate Youth Director in Buffalo from 1964 to 1972, and then as Youth Director from 1972 to 1985. Twenty-one years in service to the diocese in our department! I would know and respect him tremendously for that alone. But that's not the whole story . . .
When Father Fran left the Youth Department in 1985, he became Pastor of St. Christopher Parish in Tonawanda - my parish. From the time I was 11 years old till I was 31 years old, Father Fran was my pastor. He presided over my 8th grade graduation, helped our parish recover from a terrible arson fire, was there for my Confirmation, preached funeral Masses for two of my grandparents, presided at my wedding. And perhaps more importantly, continually inspired and challenged me with his preaching week in and week out. For these reasons alone I would have had a heart overflowing with gratitude yesterday.
But to layer on this parish experience of Father Fran with the youth ministry connection . . . well, it's profound. To know that I now carry the mantle of leadership for our diocese that he carried so well for so long is humbling. Father Fran asked me to be part of the Offertory Procession at the anniversary Mass - he asked me to bring to the altar a plaque commemorating his years as Youth Director. Here I was, one of his "kids" - all grown up and shepherding a ministry to which he had given so much of his life. What an amazing, profound moment!
And as always, Father Fran was an inspired preacher yesterday. His homily was the best "ad" for vocations that I could ever imagine. If we want to encourage more young men to consider a vocation to priestly ministry, I wish we could play them that homily. He simply spoke of his own experience - of the joy and privilege it is to bring Christ to people by celebrating each sacrament with them, of the joy it is to serve, and of the blessing it is to listen and support others, while being listened to and supported himself. According to Father Fran, that's what ministry is all about. I'm so glad that I "learned ministry" from Father Fran!
Congratulations, Father Fran! May peace and abundant blessings be yours!