Fr. Jan de Jong gave the following homily during a celebration of his 50th jubilee of ordination at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake April 27, 2014:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear Friends,
On the day of my ordination to the Priesthood, March 7, 1964, I had no idea that fifty years later I would be celebrating my Golden Jubilee in Franklin, Wisconsin, at Sacred Heart Residence at Monastery Lake. The United Sates at that time was farthest from my mind. To become a missionary in Chile was a possibility, but not Wisconsin, the dairy State of the United States.
Looking back over these 50 years of joy and fulfillment in diverse forms of ministry, accompanied from time to time by failures and disappointments, I meditated on the readings of this Second Sunday of Easter, also called Mercy Sunday. At the same time this is the day that Pope Francis has canonized two new Saints, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.
The Gospel today tells us how he apostles were gathered together in the Upper Room. It was the evening of the first days of the week. First day of the week is an allusion to the first day of creation, when everything was fresh and new. The doors to the room were locked. The Apostles were scared for fear of the Jews. Jesus had died a scandalous death on the cross. This small group was anxious and uncertain about their future What was going to happen next? Then, unexpectedly, Jesus appeared in the room where they were gathered. “Jesus stood in their midst and said to them: Peace be with you.” They must have been truly surprised. He gave them a mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Jesus is our midst today. The Risen Christ is living. This is our story as well. Jesus is in our midst during our entire life. On the day of our ordination we felt something like the group of newly ordained apostles. We felt excitement but also fear, fear of the unknown. What is my life as a priest of the Sacred Heart going to be like? In a way the unexpected appearance of the Risen Jesus in my life and in the people to whom I ministered has continued and continues today.
During these fifty years of priestly ministry I have experienced in many different ways Jesus’ presence. With the support of my brothers SCJ and my friends and my family I have been enabled to ministers to God’s people as a hospital chaplain, a teacher, and as rector of Sacred Heart Seminary. They were challenging but energizing years.
My love of the Church has grown and developed throughout these years. During 1964-1969 as a theology student in Rome I had the privilege of witnessing the workings the Spirit at the Ecumenical Council. Later on I participated in the growth of the Church in the United States. I believe firmly that the priesthood belongs to the Priestly People of God, to the Church.
In his homily of the Chrism Mass on last Holy Thursday Pope Francis described the life of the Priest in the Church in this way: “The availability of the priest makes the Church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place for loving care for the sick, a camp for the poor, a class room for catechizing children about to make their first communion.” The Church is a house of hospitality. It is the task of the Priest to always welcome the people. It is a house for saints and sinners.
Pope Francis in the same homily spoke of the joy of the priesthood. I cannot omit what he said about this joy. His words are so refreshing. I quote: “For me there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy, which speaks and attracts, starting -backwards- with those farthest away from us.”
Today I ask you for one gift: continue to pray to the Lord of the harvest: pray for vocations for the consecrated life and the priesthood.
This day I thank God for the joyful fulfillment I have found in the priestly ministry.
The Risen Lord is in our midst. He anoints us with gladness!
Click here to view photos from the celebration