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IPF Priests of St Joseph
Continuing to Grow
Believing that God is raising up a charism in the Church for the care and support of diocesan priests in the spiritual life, several priests began some time ago to discern the formation of an association of diocesan priests who perceive a “call within a call” to be of service to their brother priests. As the fruit of prayer and conversation among many people who are close to the Institute for Priestly Formation, the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph began and continues to grow within the Church. Archbishop George Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha, formally approved the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph as a public association of priests on October 22, 2015, the feast day of Saint John Paul II. Members of the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph are diocesan priests who make a formal consecration through vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, plus an additional vow of dedication to the spiritual lives of diocesan priests. Members live their consecration in either of two forms. Some members sense the call to dedicate themselves full-time to the mission of IPF and to serve permanently in Omaha on the IPF staff. These “internal members” live together in common life in Omaha in Nazareth House, where they share common prayer and fraternal life. Priests formalize their dedication to the association as internal members by officially joining the clergy of the Archdiocese of Omaha, under the supervision of the Archbishop where they will live out their priestly commitment for the rest of their lives. Other members perceive the call to remain in their diocese, while supporting the mission of IPF as their pastoral assignment allows. These “external members” intercede regularly for priests, remain available for brother priests as confessor or spiritual directors, and assist with IPF programs as their full-time pastoral assignment in their diocese permits.
New Internal Member
Fr. Jim Rafferty has been formally incorporated into the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph as an internal member, that is, a permanent member of the resident community in Nazareth House in Omaha and a full-time staff member of the Institute for Priestly Formation. In July 2013, Fr. Rafferty was assigned by Bishop Joseph Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, to the Institute for Priestly Formation for a period of discernment regarding the formation of an association of priests who recognize a “call within a call” to serve brother priests in the spiritual life. Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Scranton in 1994, Fr. Rafferty moved to Omaha in the summer of 2013 to assist Fr. Rich Gabuzda in the discernment of the Lord’s vision for this new association of priests in the Church. With the formal establishment of the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph in 2015, Fr. Rafferty subsequently received permission from Bishop Bambera on December 12, 2016, to become a permanent member of the resident community in Omaha. On March 19, 2017, Fr. Rafferty was formally received by Archbishop Lucas into the presbyterate of Omaha and assigned to the Institute for Priestly Formation. On March 20, 2017, the liturgical Solemnity of Saint Joseph this year because of Lent, Fr. Rafferty professed perpetual vows in the association. The IPF Priests of Saint Joseph are profoundly grateful to Bishop Bambera and Archbishop Lucas for their sharing in the discernment of this “call within a call” and for making possible the further development of the association.
We are also delighted to have three additional priests in formation to become members of the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph. Each of their bishops has given them permission to enter a period of formation in preparation for future consecration. While engaged in their pastoral responsibilities, these “candidates” spend two years also sharing in reflection and prayerful discernment of their own call to consecration and to service to brother priests in their interior lives. Fr. Andy Gehringer of the Diocese of Allentown, PA, and Fr. Nicholas Cachia of the Archdiocese of Malta are completing their first year of formation. Fr. Gehringer serves as pastor of Holy Infancy Parish in Bethlehem, PA. Fr. Cachia is on the faculty of Saint Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, FL. A third priest, Fr. Rob Cadrecha, is beginning formation this year. Fr. Cadrecha is a spiritual director at Saint John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, FL. Once they complete the period of formation, these priests will make temporary profession, allowing them to live in the vows for some time before making perpetual profession.
Icon of the Holy Family and the IPF Priests of St Joseph
The icon of the Holy Family describes the qualities of this priestly vocation. This image of the Holy Family, written by Kiko Arguello for the Neo-catechumenal Way, is somewhat unusual in that Jesus is not a baby in Mary’s arms while Joseph stands by watchfully. Rather, in this depiction the Holy Family is traveling from Jerusalem to Nazareth after Jesus was separated from Mary and Joseph in the Temple at the age of twelve. Here, Mary carries a scroll containing the message of Isaiah (61), “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted,” which foreshadows Jesus’ future mission as Redeemer. As an adult at the start of his public ministry, Jesus will proclaim this same passage in the synagogue at Nazareth, and so in this scene the boy Jesus bows to Mary and the scroll she bears as if anticipating the mission before him.
Joseph carries Jesus on his shoulders as they journey home to Nazareth. As they walk, however, Joseph’s eyes are closed. Rapt in the beauty of the moment, Joseph savors in contemplation the marvelous grace to carry the Son of God. At the same time, Joseph moves in trusting dependence on the Father. In this way, Joseph epitomizes the “contemplative even in action.” Walking with closed eyes, Joseph is entirely handed over to the Father to guide and sustain him and his family. The light of grace from within, not Joseph’s own resources, will lead them safely home. In all of this Joseph shares Jesus’ delight to be so cared for, a father and son reveling in being together in a scene resplendent with tenderness and affection.
Though what passed between Joseph and Jesus remains in the mystical silence of the hidden years at Nazareth, Joseph, Father of the Interior Life, was given by God the Father to Jesus to form Jesus in the life of prayer in preparation for his future public ministry. Similarly, the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph serve Jesus in the hearts of priests and seminarians by accompanying them in hiddenness to foster their growth in the life of prayer so that they might be interiorly strengthened in their public ministry as priests of Jesus Christ. When the heart of the priest abides in intimate communion with the Trinity, then his ministry is anointed with greater fruitfulness.
Please pray for the IPF Priests of Saint Joseph in this early stage of our history: that we may be faithful to everything that the Lord asks of us and that we remain in intimate communion with him in all that we do.