By Emily Drooby
Saint Athanasius Catholic Academy students spread the message of “we love our priests” through song and gifts to celebrate World Priest Day, a day when parishioners worldwide have a chance to show gratitude to those who have committed their lives to the Lord through the priesthood.
Father Edwin Ortiz who was ordained back in June, this gesture is extra special.
“This parish has done so much to help me feel at home, and so today was completely amazing,” he said. Fr. Ortiz has been serving the faithful at St. Athanasius – including the students – who have become a beloved part of his ministry.
“A lot of times the mentality is, ‘Oh, the youth aren’t interested.’ And it’s quite the opposite – they are actually very interested. There’s a lot of questions that they have and they want answered. I’m just happy I am able to be there to guide them, to grow them closer towards God,” he added.
The feeling is mutual: the kids light up when Fr. Ortiz walks into the classroom.
For students, their priests are central to the school community.
“They’ve always been there for us,” said one student. “If we need something they’re always going to be there for us, and they always listen.”
“We think that it’s very important for everyone to know how much we love our priests,” said another.
“Religion is an important way of life, and they teach us and guide us to do the right things in life instead of lead us to the wrong,” agreed one.
“Priests are very, very important to us. So I think that is why we did it today: to show them that we love them and care for them no matter what,” one student said.
As people in the Brooklyn Diocese and across the country take important steps to protect children from abuse, a top priority for the clergy is to ensure that kids are safe, happy and connected with God.
Under the guidance of Monsignor David Cassato, Fr. Ortiz has been enjoying his first few months as a priest, ministering and teaching both in the church and in the classroom.
“We as priests in this parish spend a lot of time in the school with the kids. And it’s so touching to see their reflections and their love for the priests in the parishes,” said Msgr. Cassato. “The priests teach religion every week in all the classrooms.”
“Every day is very different, but it makes it exciting because you don’t know what to expect,” added Fr. Ortiz, who looks forward to continuing to help his students strengthen their faith.