Fr. Don's Desk

50 Years a Priest

50 Years a Priest…  Homily for 13th Sun C, ‘22


It doesn’t seem like I’ve been a priest for 50 years. It’s been a Blessed Ride. 1972… the year I was ordained… I recently discovered some other events of 1972…

Movies:  Godfather  /  Bruce Lee  /   Last Tango in Paris     

Songs:  Abba  /  Lean on Me  /  Rocker Man  /  First time Ever I Saw Your Face   

Finance:  The DOW hit 1000 and Wall St wondered about the future – it took 76 yrs to hit 1000

Politics:  Nixon visits China  /  June 17th 1972 … the Watergate Break-in occurs

TV:  The Waltons  and HBO Cable Network  debut  

Inventions:  The drip coffee maker is introduced

Food: Pop Eye and Ruby Tuesday open

Sports:  Clemente’s last regular season at bat

1972  (From an article in the AARP Bulletin!)

I didn’t see my Ordination mentioned in this article. 

As I look over the past 50 years here’s what I noted…

Someone once asked me, 

What do you guys do every day at the Monastery?’

I am a member of our Pittsburgh Monastery community. Five out of six of us are elders.  We live an active community life together.  We pray together and we are responsible for our beautiful Monastery Sacramental ministries… celebrating Masses and hearing Confessions. Two of our community priests staff our renovated Retreat Center which offers weekend retreats and other spiritual programs during the week.We priests here take turns being available for confessions six days a week, from 9 to 5 each day. We take our turns celebrating two Masses each day in our Monastery Church, four Novena Masses on Monday,  a Mass each day for the Passionist Sisters in Carrick, and three weekend Masses. We are busy doing the Lord’s work of teaching, strengthening, and healing the Lord’s people who come here. The Monastery is a Sacred Place on the hill atop Pittsburgh’s South Side.

Besides these Monastery ministries I am involved in other ministries… I am part of our Passionist Associates… men and women closely bonded with us. Our associates gather monthly to enrich and grow together in their spiritual life… their walk with the Lord.

I am director of our Pittsburgh Confraternity of the Passion… an international group of over 350 men and women from around the world. This is an internet ministry helping others to grow in their spiritual lives… their walk with the Lord

I am an active participant in our South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association… a wonderful group of neighbors who work together to keep our South Side Slopes clean, green, safe… and neighborly. 

I am blessed to work with men and women in AA. I have been in this ministry for over 45 years. The men and women in AA  show me every day that God is still very active in our world, despite all of the Bad News we are inundated with. I have learned never to give up on anybody. God doesn’t.

Recently I was reading a list of hints for being a healthy elder.

18 Secrets for Longer Life…  from Web MD, 6/17/’22

Here are the ones that struck me… ones I can work on…

Make friends   /  Choose friends wisely   /   Keep moving   /   Embrace the art of the nap    / Follow a Mediterranean diet  /   Get spiritual   /   Forgive  (vs so much anger and resentments in our society)  /   Make sleep a priority   /   Get hitched – OOPS – that one’s off  the Board!   /   Keep a sense of purpose.

I would add one item to this list…  I was surprised it wasn’t included….  Laugh a lot!

I Reflections…

I’ve been thinking about these past 50 years for several months.

On this past Palm Sunday I read the Gospel describing the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday begins our celebration of our High Holy Days of Holy Week… Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Before his entry into Jerusalem Jesus instructs two of his disciples to go into the nearby village and get a donkey tied there to a tree, and bring it to Jesus. Jesus instructs them that if the owner of the donkey asks what they are doing, the disciples were simply to say: The Master has need of it.

As I think about my years of Passionist priesthood, I recall people would ask me, 'Why did you become a priest?' I would reply that I was attracted to living my life in the Passionist community and engaging in the wonderful ministries of the Passionists. As I enter my elder years and reflect on my many years of ministry, I begin to realize that the deeper reason I became a Passionist priest is simply this: 'The Master had need of me.'  

It’s not so much about me as it is about the Master. He gifted me and graced me with wonderful Passionist brothers, with a good education, with prayerful environs, with 30 years of beautiful retreat ministry in six of our retreat centers, and now for the past 20 years with my various ministries here.

My job is to make use of those blessings.  And my job is to let God make use of my blessings. God formed and shaped me over the years through my brotherly religious community and through my varied ministries. I must also say that throughout my priesthood I have been richly blessed by my wonderful family and my friends.  

St Therese of Liseuse had it right… Before she died at a young age she said that ‘all is grace’.

And I now realize what Jesus said… … I come not to be served, but to serve. (Mk 10:45)

For all of this, I am grateful… 


I realize that it’s not about me… it’s about the Master… 'The Master had need of me.'  And I do believe that the Master has need of all of us… Who else will bring goodness, compassion, forgiveness and loving care into our world… 

We cannot let the darkness win… meanness, anger and rage. The Master has need of all of us. 

Our prayer can be that of St. Francis of Assisi…

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

Where there is injury, pardon; 

Where there is doubt, faith; 

Where there is despair, hope; 

Where there is darkness, light; 

And where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console; 

To be understood, as to understand; 

To be loved, as to love; 

For it is in giving that we receive, 

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 

And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 



The Mercy of God, Jessica Powers

"I am copying down in a book from my heart’s archive

the day that I ceased to fear God with a shadowy fear.

Would you name it the day that I measured my column of virtue

and sighted through windows of merit a crown that was near?

Ah, no, it was rather the day I began to see truly

That I came forth from nothing and ever toward nothingness tend,

that the works of my hands are a foolishness wrought in the presence

of the worthiest king in a kingdom that never shall end.

I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion

and defended with flurries of pride:

"I walked out of myself and went into the woods of God’s mercy,

and here I abide. 

"There is greenness and calmness and coolness, a soft leafy covering

from judgment of sun overhead, and the hush of His peace, and the moss of His mercy to tread. I have naught but my will seeking God; even love burning in me is a fragment of infinite loving and never my own.

"And I Fear God no more; I go forward to wander forever

 in a wilderness of His infinite mercy alone."  (1949)

The Story of the wise man and the bandit… to give life.