Courtesy of Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

SCARBOROUGH — Over 50 Maine priests joined parishioners at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough on Friday, Sept. 24, to celebrate the gift of priesthood as well as the ordination anniversaries of many of their beloved priests.

The annual Jubilarian Mass honors priests celebrating special anniversaries since their ordination to the priesthood, particularly those commemorating 25 or 50 years as a priest. The jubilarians in attendance on Friday accounted for almost 1,600 years of priestly service, and the celebration was twice as big this year as anniversaries in 2020 and 2021 were honored due to the cancellation of last year’s Mass as a result of the pandemic.

“It is a good thing that we do as we gather to honor these good men whose anniversaries we mark today,” said Bishop Robert Deeley, who celebrated the Mass on Friday. “It is also good for all of us to give thanks for the gift of the priesthood. We give thanks for the gift of all our priests and the bonds of fraternity that creates among us.”

In his now 26 years of ministry, Msgr. Andrew Dubois has served in parishes, including his current role as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden, and Winterport, vicar for priests, vicar general, and moderator of the curia. He was respected and successful as a lead administrator for the diocese but feels most at home and fulfilled among the faithful of a parish.

“My heart is filled whenever I am blessed to be a part of and to recognize the presence of Lord and the movement of his grace in the lives of his people, which happens in so many simple and surprising ways,” said Msgr. Dubois. “His mercy is revealed at baptisms, weddings, and funerals; in moments of personal enlightenment and conversion; through incredibly generous acts of sacrifice and charity.”

His appreciation for the priesthood has only grown since the day he was ordained a priest at St. Louis Church in his hometown of Fort Kent in June of 1995.

“I recall that Bishop Joseph Gerry, OSB, who ordained me, referred to an antiphon the Church prays on the feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, which says, ‘The Lord loved Andrew and cherished his friendship.’ He encouraged me always to remain close to the Lord and to nurture my friendship with him. I have tried to do that through my personal prayer life, through my ministry, especially in preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, and by recognizing Jesus in everyone I encounter,” said the monsignor.

The priesthood is a calling that presents challenges and sacrifices, but also brings beauty and fulfillment.

“I am humbled and filled with joy that the Lord has graced me the gift of sharing in the priesthood of his Son Jesus and of having had the privilege of doing so this long, and yes, I do pray for many more years of active ministry should it be his will,” he said.

Fr. Daniel Greenleaf, the pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, Sabattus, and Lisbon Falls, cannot believe that a quarter century has passed since he was ordained to the priesthood at St. Joseph Church in his native Biddeford.

“I still consider myself as a newbie in the priesthood until I connect with those who have been ordained 10 years or less and then I realize I am one of the older priests to them,” said Fr. Greenleaf. “God has been really good to me, blessing me with amazing experiences in the priesthood. All I have is gratitude.” 

Watching people grow in their faith in God and knowing that God used him in “some humble way” to make it happen, fills his heart each day as a priest.

“It could be in spiritual direction or in an adult education class or in RCIA but to see their excitement, curiosity, and love grow in the faith is so amazing because it really is God doing the growing,” said Fr. Greenleaf. “It is amazing to be part of the process.”

Fr. Fred Morse was ordained to the priesthood in June of 1995. Now the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Kennebunk and Wells, Fr. Morse says after all he’s learned in his 26 years of priestly ministry, his advice to his younger self on his ordination day would be only six words.

“The wisdom is always to listen.”

Fr. Morse has served in parishes around Maine over the years, but a pair of assignments in 2003 that kept him beyond busy also provided one of his most educational and enjoyable times in ministry. 

“When I was both a pastor of St. Christopher Parish on Peaks Island and a full-time chaplain at Maine Medical Center in Portland, many people thought it was too much,” said Fr. Morse. “But having the congregation to relate to along with helping patients and their families through their last days together was a great balance.”

Helping people grow their faith lives has been a tremendous reward.

“I have had some great experiences where I felt needed and thankful.”

Fifty years later, Fr. Joël R. Cyr still clearly remembers his ordination day in Fort Kent on May 29, 1971.

“The day was beautifully sunny, and the congregation was excitedly joyful. I remember the church was artfully decorated and the celebration was sacred. A piece of heaven on earth. God’s people at their best on earth,” said Fr. Cyr, who spent eight years serving in Millinocket and Benedicta before retiring from active ministry in 2014.

Fr. Cyr said that one thing that has remained constant through the decades has been what part of the priestly ministry he holds most dear.

“Opening my heart to God’s love through communion, solidarity, and subsidiarity,” he said. “Sharing the thought that we are all created by God’s love to love Him, to serve Him, and to know Him.”

Fr. Raymond Auger, who was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Daniel J. Feeney on May 26, 1956, in Portland, agreed that his 65 years as a priest are a “great gift” and encouraged others who are deciding whether they are being called to the priesthood to engage in an active discernment.

“When I went to the seminary, I didn’t know for certain that I would reach my goal, but I wanted to know for myself if God was calling me to be a priest. I went in and I was happy. There were struggles along the way, but you have to persevere to reach your goal. I’ve had a wonderful life. It’s not for everybody but go find out.”

“Priesthood is about bringing the life and joy and message of the Gospel of Jesus to those we serve. It is something we do together, not only as priests but also as Church,” said the bishop. “Celebrating priesthood, then, is to celebrate the church and its message of hope and joy.”

Following the Mass, a luncheon was held in the hall of St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, with Bishop Robert Reed, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, serving as the keynote speaker. Fr. Reed also concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Deeley.

Priests celebrating their 65th anniversary of ordination in 2020 or 2021 are Fr. Auger, Fr. Antony Mullaney, Fr. Sylvio Levesque, Fr. Harold Moreshead, and Fr. Hubert Paquet. Priests celebrating their 60th anniversary of ordination in 2020 or 2021 are Msgr. Charles Murphy, Fr. Antonio Amato, Fr. Alfred Jacques, Fr. Richard Rice, Fr. Philip Tracy, and Fr. James Roy, MM. Priests celebrating their 55th anniversary of ordination in 2020 or 2021 are Fr. Albert Roux, Fr. Roger Chabot, Fr. Vincent Mellone, and Fr. Roger Chabot. Priests celebrating their 50th anniversary of ordination in 2020 or 2021 are Fr. Cyr; Fr. Alfred Irving, Fr. John O’Hara, Fr. C. James Martel, and Fr. David Schlaver, CSC. In addition to Monsignor Dubois, Fr. Greenleaf, and Fr. Morse, priests celebrating their 25th anniversary of ordination in 2020 or 2021 are Fr. William Modlin, Fr. Jacques Dolbec, SOLT, and Fr. Aurelijus Gricius, OFM.