Last month I joined with priests of the Archdiocese to celebrate a wonderful Jubilee Mass, followed by an enjoyable meal. Among the great traditions in Louisville, this Jubilee Mass that occurs each year so close to the Kentucky Derby ranks ahead of the race for me, though I do very much enjoy the Derby.

The celebration has an elegant simplicity. First, we gather for Mass, always a good turnout to honor our priests. This year we honored four silver jubilarians, two with golden anniversaries, and one priest who celebrated 60 years of priestly service.

Right: Fr. Kenny Kamber

Right: Fr. Kenny Kamber

This year as we welcome three newly ordained priests and two priests who are Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMIs) from India, we also honor a hardworking group – “retired priests,” who labor sometimes as hard as they did before retirement. Are we ever blessed!

“Retirement” is a funny word to use in association with a priest, because canonically one does not retire from being a priest. Dioceses, however, set a time when a priest resigns from his office, which often involves care of a parish as a pastor, but many “retired priests” generously continue to serve as their health and circumstances allow. These fine priests who labor into retirement  for years recall Psalm 110, often sung at the ordination of a priest while his hands are being anointed and he is vested in stole and chasuble – words echoed also in the Letter to the Hebrews 7:11: “Christ the Lord, a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek, offered bread and wine.”

The story of every priest is precious and worth telling. One man – 60 years a priest – is both exceptional and typical. Serving at St. Michael Church since 1997 after his formal “retirement,” Fr. Kenny Kamber is well known for his kind and gracious pastoral sense and presence.

He also is very involved in the community. Recently, he was honored by the Kentucky Right to Life for his untiring, courageous, and compassionate concern for children in the womb as well as their parents and families.

After the Jubilee Mass, I tweeted his photo and got more re-tweets than you can imagine. It is a joy for me to highlight and give praise to God for the gift of Fr. Kenny Kamber. From every corner of the Archdiocese, he is deeply admired and appreciated. While he is exceptional, he also is quite typical of the priests who labor day in and day out in service of the faithful.

Another of our retired priests who wrote about this stage of priestly ministry in a recent teaching editorial in The Record is Fr. Don Goetz. His account of priestly “retirement” is a great example of the generous service that characterizes many of our priests at this stage of life, and I recommend it for your reading. See the teaching editorial here.

Please join me in thanking and praying for all of our priests, but in a special way, please remember those special “retired” priests who continue to bless us with their wisdom and pastoral hearts in so many ways.

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