Professor Gaillardetz is on staff at the University of Toledo, Ohio where he holds a Chair in Catholic Studies. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America, he holds a mandatum from Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza to teach at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary, Houston, Texas according to the requirements of Ex Corde Ecclesia assuring faithfulness to the teaching of the Church. He and his wife Diana are the parents of four boys.
One of the fruits of the Second Vatican council in regards to the spirituality of the life of a priest is that it brought this understanding of the priest beyond a spirituality which was separated from pastoral care and ministry into a spirituality which put the understanding of the priesthood in the context of the daily life of the Church. The priest acts in the "person of Christ, the Head of the Church" in the role of teaching, sanctifying and leading the People of God, the Church. All of this is at the service of the baptized people so that they may develop their gifts and fulfill their mission, given in their baptism, to be witnesses in their world to the Good News of Jesus.
The focus of understanding the priesthood is "relationship." It flows from our understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons who are in the relationship of communion. Our baptism is the beginning of a new relationship with God. The priesthood is the consecration to a new relationship with Christ which is carried out in the Church.
These are a couple of the ideas that Dr. Gaillardetz shared with us in his first talk. He was back with us the next morning to continue with the topic "Reflections on the Relationship between the Ministerial Priesthood and the Priesthood of the Baptized." In the workshop that was held for smaller groups, there was agreement that even though we are 40 years or so into the implementation of the teachings of Vatican II, there are large numbers of the Catholic Faithful who have little understanding of what it means that by their baptism they share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is seen by diminished attendance at Sunday Mass, the influence of individualism in our society, the emphasis on consumerism which makes all things commodities, even religious faith and teaching. The baptized exercise their priesthood in the world in which they live, being witnesses of God's love and God's salvation. Jesus has offered his life out of love for us, we now offer ourselves and our world to God in response to that love. The priesthood of the Baptized and the Ordained or Ministerial Priesthood are both something which pertains not only to Sunday worship but also beyond that to the way we live our life. Knowing the sacrificial love which Jesus has for us, our only response is to live lives of sacrificial love ourselves.
Needless to say, Dr. Gaillardetz's talks were well received and appreciated by the bishops and were a very helpful occasion to deepen our understanding of the beauty of our Catholic Faith.
The Plenary meetings were also an occasion to renew some long standing friendships. This is Fr. Doug MacNeil of Saint John, NB. Fr. Doug was attending the Plenary as an observer representing the National Federation of Prebyteral Councils. Fr. Doug and I go back a long way with connections to St. Thomas University and the Miramichi in New Brusnwick.