“Even in a dream I couldn't imagine the experiences that I've had as a priest - just doing every day what I thought was God's will, responding to God's call,” the cardinal-archbishop of Detroit told the Michigan Catholic.
Cardinal Maida has been Archbishop of Detroit for nearly 16 years. As a priest, he earned degrees in canon and civil law and eventually worked on legal matters regarding Church/state cases, even preparing cases for the Supreme Court. He reflected on his 50 years as a priest with the Michigan Catholic.
The cardinal explained how he understood his call to the priesthood. “I just wanted to be a person of faith and to give my life in ministry to God's people,” he said. “That's pretty much it, and as a kid it was always ‘how can I help somebody?’ That was always in my heart, and it's still that way.”
The biggest challenge in the last half-century, Maida said, was dealing with was the sexual abuse of minors by priests. “You think of young children being victimized, priests betraying a trust - a sacred trust - that's the most difficult thing that I've ever faced. It was a two-year period that consumed all my psychic and spiritual energies,” he said.
Another challenge, he said, was closing Catholic schools because of the demographic shifts in the archdiocese. In an effort to continue to reach out to youth and to counteract school closures, the cardinal said youth ministry is now one of his top priorities.
He urged young people to discover that Jesus Christ is the answer to their fundamental questions of life. “And once you know the Lord, once you experience the Lord's presence, you will find that He is indeed the way, the truth and the life, and if you follow in that way you will find an answer to the ultimate questions of who are you and where you are going,” he said.
Having been ordained in 1956, the cardinal also reflected on the Church after the Second Vatican Council, which brought about changes in the liturgy, increased ecumenical and interfaith relations and fostered a new understanding of the priesthood with the growing role of the laity.
“The laity has assumed a new place in the life of our Church, and so the life of the priest has changed, because he needs to relate differently to his people in his ministry,” he said. “The council challenged all of us to re-energize our spiritual lives, our relationship with God, and our relationship with one another in different ways.”
Cardinal Maida encouraged those who are contemplating priesthood to trust in the Lord. “Don't be afraid of any situation, any problem or challenge, because you're doing God's work. God never fails. Our Lord is always there,” he said.
This year has been declared a Year of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit. The cardinal is urging the faithful to answer the Lord's call to serve.
.- Cardinal Adam Maida is giving thanks to God for his priestly vocation on his 50th anniversary of ordination.