American Laity Go Online to Say: Thank You, Father

Web Site Supports Faithful Priests

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, DEC. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Two Catholics have started a pastoral initiative of sorts -- to help the clergy in the United States.



Laymen Joe Lilly and Rick Redman, both former television news workers, wanted to make a statement of support for the good priests in their own lives -- and wound up doing considerably more than that.

As Redman told the National Catholic Register, "Our television news experience taught us the media would hammer everything negative they could out of the story, and we felt that was unfair to the good priests."

"Priests we knew told us they were afraid to go out in public with their collars on," Lilly added.

So they staked out a place on the poor man's medium -- the Internet. With volunteer help from a few friends, the two created the Thank You Father Web site (www.thankyoufather.com), which has received over 25,000 messages since its inauguration last August.

The site introduction reads: "Recent headlines have showcased serious allegations involving several members of the clergy. Those cases will work their way through the legal system, as they should. We pray for justice and healing for all victims.

"However, the crisis in the Catholic Church has reminded us how important priests are to us. They're with us throughout our lives. They lead us during good times and bad. They minister to us on our spiritual journey. Now it's time we minister to the 'good guys.'"

And minister they do -- not through arguments or rhetoric, but through simple individual testimonials from ordinary people, telling the stories which are not making the local news. The everyday stories of everyday priests administering the sacraments, helping the needy in soul, mind or body -- of priests being priests.

Catholics around America are telling their stories -- like the woman from Rockford, Illinois, who thanked "Father Joe" for helping to save her marriage by seeking out her non-Catholic husband at his workplace and talking to him. Or Ken and Joan in Springfield, Illinois, who remember the priest who came to their home to comfort them when their daughter died. Or the anonymous writer who recalled the indispensable role of each priest in making the sacraments available.

As Lilly and Redman point out in the site introduction, the best way to express gratitude to priests is by going to them and thanking them in person.