Whether due to shyness or excitement, during the whole time, as I was celebrating the Holy Chrism Mass last evening (Holy Wednesday), I used the plural form. It was not the “royal we” but the “presbyters we.” Indeed, I still felt I was presbyter.
For the first time I was celebrating the Holy Chrism Mass with the priests of Rreshen’s diocese in my capacities as bishop. For the past two days I lived in anticipation of this moment. Perhaps it was a naïve form of excitement, but it was legitimate for a young bishop whose presbyters – except for one – are older than him. And I had to say to them “my dearest sons”, embracing their priestly promises.
In the meantime I asked them the questions that form part of the liturgy, I answered with them, “Yes, I do.”
After all, we are united by Christ’s only priesthood and since there is no Holy Thursday for bishops, this is also my opportunity to make my promises before the priests and the faithful.
My story risks once again to put the figure of the bishop at the centre. But today they, the priests, are the ones with a central role. Our diocese counts only six priests, each called to serve in more than two parishes or churches. This is all the presbytery of Rreshen! But they are all wonderful priests. Each of them different, but all devoted to their pastoral commitment and faithful to their service.
Father Gianfranco, the missionary from Brescia fidei donum in Albania for many years: generous and obedient. In addition to his service in parishes he is also a spiritual Father in the Seminary of Scutari for initial formation. The Somascan Fathers, Leo, Giulio, Michele, manage a professional school in the diocese and every weekend they run from one parish to the next carrying out their pastoral service as priests. Then there is Giulio, who is struggling with his precarious health conditions, but he keeps strong. And two Albanian priests, Fr Genci and Fr Agustin, who love their homeland and tirelessly perform their daily duties with great dedication.
Last evening they were all attending the Holy Mass to pray together.
We mutually encouraged one another to move forward despite the lack of vocations and the great amount of work. “Do you resolve to be united to God? more closely every day to Christ the High Priest?” In the union with God, gathered in prayer, in the search of God in our life and in the world we will find the strength and the joy of proclamation.
What about the people? There were many youths. I asked them to pray for the priests. “If you pray for them they will always be beside you, but if you only want them for yourselves you will lose them.” I’m sure that among those youths there are some seeds of vocation to the priesthood. If God wills, they will blossom.
(*) bishop of Rreshen