By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
“Priests should mirror the words and actions of Christ,” said Auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid of Pittsburgh, keynote speaker of a Day of Sanctification for Priests Feb. 21 at DeSales University, Center Valley.
The day included two morning talks by Bishop Waltersheid, holy hour with confessions and benediction.
Bishop Alfred Schlert joined priests of the Diocese of Allentown for the day.
“It’s good for us priests to get together at the beginning of Lent, focus on our priestly call to holiness and daily conversion of the heart so that we can faithfully serve the people of God in our parishes and schools,” Bishop Schlert said.
As he addressed the priests, Bishop Waltersheid said when people hear a priest’s preaching and it takes on a new dimension to them, “It’s by God’s grace that accompanies our preaching.”
Bishop Waltersheid said it’s amazing how God uses priests, who are called to preach not their own ideas but God’s truth.
“Our preaching is an inherently priestly act,” said Bishop Waltersheid. “It’s forming people with love with the Gospel of Christ. How we do it is really the key … are we doing it as the loving fathers we’re called to be?”
“I love Bishop Sheen,” he said, referring to the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. “What a wonderfully insightful man he was. He knew what the people of his time needed and how to say it to them.”
Bishop Waltersheid said the Catholic media of today is important, highlighting, for example, the late “feisty Mother Angelica – she knew how to connect with people.”
“What we do at Mass is so important. The homily is guiding principles of Christian life expounded,” he said. “It’s not my interpretation of the Gospel but what the Church says. That’s why prayerfully preparing is so important. If we call upon God, he helps us.
“A life of prayer that is constant and taken seriously always helps us prepare homilies.”
Quoting St. Francis of Assisi, Bishop Waltersheid said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
Bishop Waltersheid said preaching also occurs outside the pulpit, such as at a youth group, RCIA class, a sickbed or with a person who wants to talk after Mass.
He recalled on May 5, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Priests are bridges to God.”
The three imperatives of a priest, Bishop Waltersheid said, are to pray, to provide care and to preach. “The sacraments are there in prayer. Preaching is also done in our everyday human interactions.
“Jesus preached from the cross, the greatest pulpit of all.”
Bishop Waltersheid said priests should be humble in the way they bring the Good News. “There’s great courage in humility.
“It’s Christ who speaks through us. Let him through.”
Bishop Waltersheid said the greatest homily priests give is when they say the words of consecration. He recalled a Bishop once asking, “Are you praying the Mass?”
“Let us preach every day of our lives, all day,” Bishop Waltersheid said, not as people would expect but as witnesses, noting Blessed Pope Paul VI made the point that the world needs more witnesses, not teachers.
“Christ is a king who reigns not from a palace of marble but of wood,” Bishop Waltersheid said.
“We see the life of the priest in a shepherd,” Bishop Waltersheid said, adding Jesus is the greatest shepherd.
Bishop Waltersheid shared thoughts about the priesthood from a few saints, including St. John Vianney, who said, “The priesthood is the heart of the love of Jesus,” and St. Ambrose of Milan, who said, “He made them, the vicars of his love.”
“Can people see Jesus in us? They can if we mirror him,” Bishop Waltersheid said.
Bishop Waltersheid said it’s a challenging and exciting time for the Church. “It’s time for us to be grounded in what the Church has been telling us about our identity and our priesthood,” he said, urging priests to be true to be priesthood and be committed.
He encouraged priests to be of good cheer and full hope, reminding them they don’t do it alone but have a wonderful fraternity of priests and that Christ is with them.
Bishop Waltersheid said priests should also turn to the Blessed Mother. “Mary, who stood at the foot of the cross, stands by us too, her sons. She stands by us our entire life as priests. She is with us, and how we need her.”
Sharing the words of St. Pope John Paul II, Bishop Waltersheid said, “The world looks to the priest, because it looks to Jesus! No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur and dignity of the priest!”
“When we go back to the first moment when we knew we were called, we know the call is ours, the help of the Lord’s grace is ours … and his mother is ours, too,” Bishop Waltersheid said.
Bishop Waltersheid was born Nov. 18, 1956 in Ashland, son of the late William F. and Margaret M. (Deane) Waltersheid.
He was baptized at St. Joseph, Locust Gap, where he spent his childhood and early adult years. An only child, he lived with his parents and maternal grandfather.
After graduating from high school in 1974, Bishop Waltersheid worked in the health care field. He graduated from Pottsville Hospital School of Nursing in 1983. In 1985 he was accepted as a candidate for the seminary formation program of the Diocese of Harrisburg. In 1988 he was sent by Cardinal William Keeler to the Pontifical North American College in Rome for continued formation for the priesthood.
Bishop Waltersheid received a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1991 from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a licentiate in dogmatic theology from that same university in 1993. He was ordained a deacon in Rome April 30, 1992 by
Cardinal Pio Laghi and a priest in Harrisburg July 11, 1992 by Bishop Nicholas Dattilo.
Bishop Waltersheid returned to Rome in 1999 and served on the faculty of the Pontifical North American College until 2003. In June 2006 he was appointed Diocesan secretary for clergy and consecrated life by Bishop Kevin Rhoades.
On Feb. 25, 2011 it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Titular Bishop of California.