Honoring the Hero Priests of the Pandemic

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have all been called to stretch, to adapt, and to get creative. And our parish priests are no exception. With some churches closed for months (and in some areas closed again), so many priests went above and beyond to bring Christ to their flock.

Recognizing the sacrifice so many priests have made, Mundelein Seminary is collectively honoring these priests with the 2020 In Service of One Another Catholic Humanitarian Award. Fr. John Kartje, Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary, stopped by Morning Air® this week to discuss #HeroPriests and the often-unheard stories of how parish priests minister to those most in need.

On the decision to honor #HeroPriests with the Catholic Humanitarian Award, Fr. Kartje said, “We realize in this crazy year – whether it’s the pandemic or the social unrest – that so many people have risen heroically to take care of those in need. But, of course, parish priests have been right there at the heart of it as well. And I’ve always felt that one of the roles of Mundelein Seminary is to tell the story of the Church, and to tell the stories of so many of the priests who are out there.”

“They are often unknown, except in their own parishes doing wonderful work,” he pointed out. “So this is an opportunity for the people whose lives have been touched by them to actually offer their names and give a line or two about why they mattered.”

Morning Air co-host Glen Lewerenz mentioned that in the Archdiocese of Chicago there was a special task force of priests who volunteered to minister to those in the COVID units of the hospitals in the region. These priests volunteered early in the pandemic, when little was known about the virus, and truly put their lives on the line. But Fr. Kartje mentioned that there were many other priests who received calls from parishioners suffering from COVID-19, and heroically answered those calls.

“There were a number of priests not part of that task force, but unfortunately the call came in, and they selflessly went in for that,” he recalled.

Fr. Kartje also said that the pandemic has been helpful in forming seminarians to know what they are signing up for when they answer the call to the priesthood.

He said of the priests who have responded to calls from COVID patients, “I really use that with the seminarians in training, to show them much better than any other way I could show it, that this is what the Lord (God willing) is calling you to. And this is what it looks like. Because the value of what we do here is only measured by the value of the service of the priests once they get out into the parish.”

“Mundelein largely is a diocesan seminary, and so I say to the guys that they are going to be the priest at the church on the corner. And when the stuff hits the fan in the middle of the night, it’s going to be your door they’re knocking on or your phone they are calling. And rather than that being a discouragement, really for most guys that’s a source of inspiration.”

Do you know a priest who has been creatively ministering during the pandemic? Submit your story to the #HeroPriests awards, and have your priest honored for his service to Christ and the Church. And, as always, remember to pray for your priests!

Listen to the full conversation with Fr. John Kartje below:

Morning Air can be heard weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.