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Happy Easter to you all!

I can't believe that I have already celebrated my first Holy Week and Easter as a priest! I have officially been ordained 10 months now, but it seems like I was just ordained last week. This Holy Week has been a special time of reflection for me as I have celebrated the mysteries of the Lord's Passion, Death and Resurrection. In a particular way, Holy Thursday is the day we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood, which this year offers a whole new meaning to me as a priest. 

Holy Week is the most sacred time of the year, but it is also the busiest week of the year for priests as well, and by the time we finish our last Mass on Easter Sunday we are ready for a little break. Early last summer, Bishop Kemme offered to organize a trip to Ars, France to spend Easter week on retreat at the home of St. John Vianney, the Patrol Saint of Priests, and I was lucky enough to take one of the spots. So tomorrow, Easter Monday, I will fly out with Bishop Kemme and 25 other priests of our diocese to France to spend some silent time with this incorrupt Saint. This is an especially great joy for me since St. John Vianney has been one of my favorite saints for many years.

St. John Vianney was known for living a simple life, he only owned one cassock, he slept only 3-4 hours a night, for a number of years he only ate one cold potato a day and if he wanted to spurge he would put some milk on it. He prayed for the conversion of his parish constantly and he would even kneel before a statue of Mary and pray for every single person in his parish by name! He was renowned for his great holiness and people would come from all over Europe in order to have him hear their confession. In fact, for the last few years of his life, St. John Vianney would regularly hear confessions for 16 or more hours a day! It is my hope that by spending these next few days with this great saint, I can return with just a little of his great holiness.

In addition to seeing Ars, we will also spend a few days in Paris and will be able to go to several of the major Cathedrals and Basilicas of France; we will go to the Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul where his incorrupt body lies; and we will go to Rue de Bac, the place where Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure and gave her the "Miraculous Medal" which is known for it's many miracles.

I want you to know that I will be praying for you at each of these holy places and I will especially remember the Blessed Sacrament St. Vincent de Paul Society when I go to see their great Patron Saint. Please pray for safe travels for our group. I will see you in two weeks!

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis Hecker

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