By MICHAEL WOJCIK, News Editor
POMPTON PLAINS Fond memories flooded back for Father Paul O’Donnell Duggan, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) Parish here, on Oct. 19, when Pope Paul VI was beatified in Rome to the day 44 years earlier when the “blessed” late Italian pontiff ordained him and his brother, Frank, to the priesthood in that same place: St. Peter’s Basilica.
This fall, Father Duggan asked OLGC parishioners to help him celebrate and give thanks for Pope Paul’s beatification and the pontiff’s ordaining him and his brother on May 17, 1970 by “paying it forward” in a sense: praying at home for priests and for an increase in vocations at the Morris County faith community and the diocese. The pastor also said that he has requested that parishioners pray in celebration of the 50th anniversary of OLGC.
OLGC sent to 1,700 parish families an envelope that contained a letter from Father Duggan that introduced the initiative and card that displayed a photo of Paul VI giving him the sign of peace after his ordination and several inspiring quotes about Catholic spirituality. Each envelope also included a card with the first name of a priest for whom the pastor has asked them to pray.
“Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul, during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops. Paul VI is now called ‘blessed,” the last step in the process of being declared a saint,” Father Duggan wrote. “Oct. 19 was a big day for the Catholic Church. It also was a very big day for my brother, Father Frank, a priest of the Dublin Diocese, and me. It was Paul VI, who ordained us to the priesthood. No pope had then or since ordained brothers together,” he wrote.
In 1970, Paul VI wanted to ordain brothers and men from countries around the world. Father Duggan said, “We were proud that we were brothers and represented Ireland.”
In his letter, Father Duggan called Paul VI “a prophet,” who “revolutionized the papacy by crisscrossing the world.”
“He was the first bishop of Rome since the Apostle Peter to visit the homeland of Jesus, traveling to Israel and Jordan in 1968. He was the first pontiff to visit every continent. Some still recall his triumphant trip to New York in 1964 to address the United Nations: another first,” Father Duggan wrote.
As OLGC remembers Paul VI and his ordination of the Duggan brothers, Father Duggan has asked parishioners to pray for priests. He reminded the faithful that priests pray for them everyday while reciting the Divine Office.
In the letter, Father Duggan offered parishioners a sample prayer: “Jesus, thank you for calling Father [name on the card] to be a priest. Thank you that he said ‘Yes’ to your call. Protect him each day from the Evil One. Give Father a deep love for you and your dear mother, Mary, who is famous for saying at the Wedding of Cana, ‘Do as he tells you.’ May Father always do what you tell him.”
The pastor also suggested that parishioners pray before a small table in the corner of a room, adorned with a white cloth, a candle, a Bible, a flower, a crucifix and the prayer card. They also can mediate on quotes on the card with Father Duggan’s photo, which includes, among others, St. John Paul II — “That your homes be or begin again to be a home of daily family prayer” — and John 15:16 — “You did not choose me but I chose you.”
“Call this corner of your home ‘your sacred space,’ your private chapel, the place where you pray each day. I thank you very much and want you to know that if you want me to come and pray with you, it will be an honor,” he wrote. “These final years of my priesthood, dear reader, are the best ever. I have never been as happy. You are bringing out qualities that I did not know I have. A prayerful thank you for that,” the priest wrote.
The prayer initiative also seeks to increase vocations at OLGC.
Already a young parishioner started in the fall to study with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Several other young parishioners have told him that they have been considering a vocation, Father Duggan said.
“There is something happening at Good Counsel that I’ve haven’t seen anywhere else. This parish could become a goldmine for vocations,” Father Duggan told The Beacon. “This is an indirect way to foster vocations. Vocations come from the family. I want to create an awareness in parents that their sons or daughters might be called to a vocation.”
So far, Father Duggan reports having received “positive feedback” from parishioners, who have approached him to tell them that have been been praying. The pastor also considers the prayer initiative a form of evangelization, because most families, who had received the cards, are non-practicing Catholics.
“Where there is no family prayer, there is no Church. Maybe these families don’t know how to pray. Prayer whets the appetite for more. Then, maybe they will come to church,” he said.