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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Where will we find more priests?

Try looking in the offices of millionaire lawyers!

The Springfield News-Leader: 'Hunger' led millionaire to become a priest
During most Wednesday morning Masses at Sacred Heart Church, the pews are lightly peppered with people.
But Wednesday, attendance swelled.

Some missed work and others dragged themselves out of bed for an 8 a.m. service to honor Father Frank Iacona, who congregants say has turned around this parish.

"I don't do mornings, so for me to do this is a sacrifice," laughed Sandy James, who has been a member here for 37 years.

The parishioners credit Iacona with stitching together a sense of community among the Anglo and Hispanic members, organizing the church, being a dynamic speaker and bringing a new level of compassion. Above all, he has been a friend to many.

They surprised him with a party for the fifth anniversary of his priesthood.

"He arrived exactly when we needed him," said Rolanda Avila, 42.

The 59-year-old priest helped oversee construction of a church expansion. Also a former lawyer, Iacona is admired for the millionaire lifestyle he gave up to become a priest and shepherd a north-side church.

"I had it all, but I felt a hunger," Iacona said.

Amen to that, Father.

That hunger led him to volunteer, get more involved with the Catholic church and eventually decide to follow a more spiritual life. This is his fourth parish.

Bishop John Leibrecht said it is not unusual to celebrate a priest's anniversary, but the 25th and 50th are usually milestones.

"I'm really delighted they are celebrating Father Frank's fifth anniversary," Leibrecht said. "No use waiting."

Iacona is said to be a dynamite speaker — likely because of his legal background.

"He has a thing we call a 'presence,'" said the Rev. Frank C. Palermo, a retired priest from Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

Avila described each Mass as "a feast" because of his sermons.
Morning light streamed through stained-glass windows and cast pastel shadows on the walls of the church.

Iacona's voice echoed off the cathedral ceiling.

When he asked what people were praying for, members called out. One woman said she was praying for "Joe and Mary." There is no need for last names here; everyone knows Joe and Mary, and they know their plight.

Joe and Mary Bridges live in Brighton, and both have cancer.

Bless and protect them, Lord.

"Me and my wife have both been ill, and he's been down here twice to see us. He's a terrific guy," Joe said over the phone.

Iacona visits the sick, elderly and homebound every Wednesday.

"He has, oh boy, how can I say it, he has more than just a call, he has a gift from God," said Estera Enciu, who organized the party. "He's so much more than a priest. I was sick in September and he came every day for a week."

You're right. He's a good priest. And a faithful one.

Iacona sweeps the floors, takes out the trash and cleans wherever it's needed.

Margarita Gagliardi says he understands "the lay people."

Last summer Gagliardi invited the priest over for a barbecue at her house. He arrived early and spotted her husband painting the house.

"He took off his shirt, took off his shoes and said 'Give me a brush. I'm here to help,'" Gagliardi said.

Not only has he connected with church members, he encourages them to connect with their community.

"He's always encouraging us to go and help people, meet them, know them," Gagliardi said. "Don't just give money, but get involved."

Amen to that.

Iacona united the Anglo and Hispanic populations in the church, said Karen Sinderman.

He's always saying "we're not separate. We are all one," Sinderman said.

To do this, he holds occasional bilingual Mass (there was already English and Spanish mass), encourages both sides to go to Mass in other languages and encourages everyone to socialize.

To build a community, you should throw a party, Iacona says, because people should celebrate together as well as pray together.
"That (unity) can be a challenge sometimes. We tend to see what separates us more than what unites us," he said. "But we are blessed to have both the older Anglos that have made this place what it is and the new generation of Hispanics that are adding so much to the church."

Madison Strain, 7, said Father Frank is very kind to him. When asked how, Madison put his hand on his chin, looked up like he was pondering and then said: "He gives me nice things like a big blessing."

Later, Madison handed Iacona a card handmade out of green construction paper.

After members feasted on everything from fresh blackberries to desserts to homemade breads, they cut his cake and thanked him for his service.

You have this backward, he responded.

"The thing I learned a long time ago is whatever is said about us, good or bad, has more to do with the person saying it than it does us," Iacona said.

Pray that more good men like Father Iacona will answer God's call to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

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First of all, the word is SEX, not GENDER. If you are ever tempted to use the word GENDER, don't. The word is SEX! SEX! SEX! SEX! For example: "My sex is male." is correct. "My gender is male." means nothing. Look it up. What kind of sick neo-Puritan nonsense is this? Idiot left-fascists, get your blood-soaked paws off the English language. Hence I am choosing "male" under protest.

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