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Archbishop initiates plan for well-being of priests

From May 2002:

Archbishop Justin Rigali recently announced to priests several initiatives that would "support and enhance the life and ministry of priests in the archdiocese."

"I renew ... my deep gratitude for your priestly life and ministry," Archbishop Rigali said in an April 22 letter to all archdiocesan priests. "You seek to be wholehearted in your commitment to Jesus Christ and his Church."

In his letter, Archbishop Rigali laid out ways in which the archdiocese will continue to address efforts to eliminate sexual abuse by clergy as well as resources being made available to priests that will help strengthen their ministry.

The first of such efforts was the Archbishop's Study Day at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Shrewsbury this week. Father John Kavanaugh, SJ, served as keynote speaker and addressed challenges in preaching.

Two days of recollection are in the works, the Archbishop said, and are being coordinated through the archdiocesan Office for the Continuing Formation of Priests. The events, to be held in the summer and fall, "will consider issues of healthy and balanced living, the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood and integrated celibate chastity," he noted.

"Our pastors are placed in such a cauldron," said Father Michael J. Witt, director of the Office for the Continuing Formation of Priests. "When you look at it, every problem that can come in human nature ends at their doorstep. And for them to be able to handle all of that is asking an awful lot out of a human being."

To address the issue of sexual abuse, the Archbishop said he will be making available resources and personnel to assist priests in their pastoral outreach to victims of abuse and their families. Additional resources soon will be established to help priests with concerns about themselves or other priests.

Archbishop Rigali also underlined the availability of professional services to priests that would help them address issues that "impede their capacity for living healthy and holy lives." He also noted plans to form a high-level committee that would review archdiocesan policies on abuse of minors and the protection of children. The committee will include members of religious and civic communities, he noted.

The Archbishop also expressed gratitude for several committees that have helped priests, including the newly formed Pastores Dabo Vobis Committee, which reviews programs of outreach and ministry to priests, the Gennesaret Committee, which advises the Archbishop on issues of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and the Health Committee, which helps priests with substance abuse problems, emotional and physical concerns and matters of sexuality.

"I have presented here an ambitious program," Archbishop Rigali said. " It will demand much of those who will work with me to implement its multiple facets. It will likewise demand much of you as you are asked to invest yourself wholeheartedly in its various components. I am convinced, though, that at this critical moment in the life of the Church nothing less is enough."

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