This month of Thanksgiving is a time in which we are especially grateful for the Lord's blessings. The blessings come in many ways and remind us of God's love each day.
For more than a decade, the parish family at St. Leo the Great Church has been blessed with the priestly ministry of Msgr. Michael J. Yunk. As a retired priest, he is typical of the generosity of so many retired priests in our diocese who serve the Lord and His people with great generosity. In thanking the Lord for the blessing of Msgr. Yunk in our parish, I am sure that these words echo the gratitude of so many in our diocese for the ministry of retired priests who serve in so many parishes.
Shortly after I became pastor, both the other priests who were serving St. Leo the Great Parish were transferred to other assignments. As with so many parishes, ours became a one-priest parish. A retired military chaplain and pastor, Msgr. Yunk agreed to serve as a weekend associate and celebrates Mass in the parish each weekend and sometimes during the week. I am grateful that his style of celebrating Mass, his spirituality, and his preaching are all different from mine. There are some in our parish family who perhaps can relate better to his style, spirituality and experiences than to mine. This variety is a blessing for our parish.
Each Sunday before Mass, Msgr. Yunk may be found in the chapel, saying the prayers all priests are committed to pray. In seeing him in chapel, I am reminded that my own commitment to those same prayers unites me to priests throughout the world as we pray for the Church and especially for those in our pastoral care. These are not extra prayers, but rather an essential part of each priest's life in service to the Lord and His people. I am grateful that Msgr. Yunk reminds me that as a priest I am called to be a man of prayer each day.
Msgr. Yunk told me once that the key to a happy retirement as a priest is to "retire from" something and "retire to" something. He retired from the military and as pastor; he retired to his garden. His garden has a variety of fruits and vegetables, which receive his tender care. The harvest is generously shared with family and friends.
Msgr. Yunk brings this same tender care and generosity to the garden which is our parish family. Always approachable, unfailingly kind, generous with his wisdom, he witnesses to the joy of our faith. I am grateful that our parish is blessed with this servant with a priestly heart.
Our retired priests are wonderful blessings, for which we are all very grateful. May their lives continue to inspire others to hear and answer the call to serve the Lord and us as priests. Those who do respond to this call will stand on the shoulders of giants ... our retired priests.
Msgr. Zapfel is the pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish.