Every five years, by custom, the Archbishop of Cincinnati "convokes" his diocesan priests for a three-day gathering of talks, discussions, prayer, and fellowship. The most recent convocation was held June 4-7, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio.
The theme for the conference was "Claiming Our Common Sense of Purpose as Priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."
The underlying motive for the theme was concern over the gap or rift between older and younger clergy.
It is common to refer to these two "cohorts" as Vatican Two Priests and John Paul the Second Priests.
The divide seems to be centered on how the priests in each group view their ministry and vision of Church.
One analysis of the differences notes that the older clergy think of themselves as servant leaders and the younger clergy think of themselves as spiritual fathers.
Perhaps a further distinction can be drawn between the older clergy's perception that the Church must enter into and learn from the world, while the younger clergy tend to find the world an environment that threatens the Gospel and the life of the Church.
Not all of the older or younger clergy fit nicely into those categorizations, and some would disavow such distinctions.
The talks or presentations focused on the history, charism and spirituality of the Cincinnati presbyterate (Bishop Joseph Binzer), on the history of the Cincinnati presbyterate (Father Robert Obermeyer), a review of the Cincinnati presbyterate as one of the older clergy sees it (Father Gerald Haemmerle), a look at the Cincinnati presbyterate as a younger priest hopes to see it (Father Daniel Hess), and a layman's view (Miss Emily Bissonnette and Mr. Joseph Ollier).
Reception of the various presentations varied.
Questions and comments were surfaced about clerical dress (some younger clergy wear collars or cassocks whenever in public while some older clergy seldom or never do).
It was reported that in one of the small group discussions a younger priest said he considered the ministry of the "senior priests" to be a failure.
It was said by some older priests that clerical clothing does not make a man a priest, that a priest is known by his character and ministry not by his clothing.
Such differences or observations, however, did not disrupt the overall civility and patient listening of the priests as a body. A truly Christian spirit prevailed.
Final presentations focused on upcoming diocesan initiatives and programs, plus a brief summation of the diocese's financial well-being.
The final presentation was a "question and answer" session with the Most Reverend Dennis Schnurr, the Archbishop of Cincinnati.
Once compiled, the evaluation forms filled out by those in attendance will provide a more encompassing picture of the efforts and effects of these three days.