The Right Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster has marked the start of a Year for Priests in the Diocese of Westminster by celebrating a Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Friday 19 June 2009, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year for Priests in March 2009 in an effort to foster the priest's yearning 'for spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends.' The Year will conclude in Rome with an international gathering of priests with the Holy Father on 19 June 2010.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has also recorded a video message for Catholics in the Diocese of Westminster about the Year for Priests, in which he expresses the hope that over the coming year more men will consider joining the priesthood.

Proud of our priests

In his Homily Archbishop Vincent Nichols called on the faithful to honour their priests:

 “It is to be a year, in which, as a Church, we say that we are proud of our priests, that we love them, honour them and recognise with gratitude the witness of their lives and the generosity of their pastoral work.”

He also asked priests to renew their lives and remind them to live out their calling with humility. 

 “Today, we priests need to remember that our words carry great resonance.. The words we say, the things we do, can bring about great good…but our words and actions can also cause great harm, for our ill-chosen words and our wrong actions also have that same resonance.”

People and parishes in the Diocese of Westminster were urged to renew their life of prayer and to work together to encourage more men to become priests. 

“During this Year of the Priests, as a Diocese, we will centre our effort around a renewed practice of prayer. In every parish we will centre this effort around prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary. This practice of prayer, as well as study, will sustain us in our life together, it will enable us to thank God whole-heartedly for the gift of our priests and, I believe, it will be the source from which new vocations to the priesthood will spring.”

St John Southworth

Archbishop Nichols also drew attention to the life and work of St John Southworth, a Lancashire man who devoted his life to the priesthood during post-reformation England. Much of his life was spent in London among the sick and the poor. He was martyred at Tyburn in 1654 and his body lies in Westminster Cathedral. Archbishop Nichols will ask the faithful to celebrate his feast on 27 June.

St Jean Marie Vianney - Patron Saint of Parish Priests

2009 sees the 150th anniversary of the death of St Jean Marie Vianney, who is honoured as the Patron Saint of Parish Priests.  During the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI intends to declare him Patron Saint of all priests, proposing the saint’s life as a model of priestly service, an inspired response to the faithfulness of Christ that should be reflected in the faithfulness of priests.