The June 18-21 priests’ convocation offered participants a chance to reflect on their priesthood and the church, as well as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Father Ken Simpson, vicar for professional and pastoral development of priests, said he thought the convocation accomplished its goals. “I think the goal was really to develop fellowship between the priests,” Simpson said. “Many of those who attended thought it was one of the best ever.” Attendees said they especially liked the keynote address of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who spoke of grace and nature, and the presentation of Dominic Perri, a strategic planning and leadership consultant. Perri had all the priests sit in groups, with the oldest — the handful who attended who were ordained before the Second Vatican Council — sitting up front, said Father Michael Nacius, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Lake Forest. They were followed by those formed and ordained during the years of the council. Behind them sat those ordained in the post-conciliar years, up until 1980. At the back of the room were those dubbed the millennials. “It was important for all of us to see that there are guys coming up behind us,” said Nacius, although he acknowledged that the youngest group of priests included more ordination years than any other group. “There are still vocations, and there are still priests being ordained.” After Perri’s talk, the priests were divided into small groups with members of different ordination eras for discussion. “It’s always a risk when you divide people into groups and tell them where they’re going to sit,” Simpson said. Father Dan Folwaczny, associate pastor of the Catholic Community of Northbrook, said he appreciated that the three-day gathering allowed him to meet more of the priests in the archdiocese. “We’re a really big archdiocese, and there are so many priests,” said Folwaczny, who was ordained in 2014. Folwaczny said he has been fortunate to live in a rectory with two or three other priests since being ordained, but a lot of priests are alone in their parishes. “It was nice to have time to connect, to see old friends and meet new people.” Nacius and Folwaczny were pleased that the emphasis of the program was on prayer and spiritual renewal, not on strategic planning or the mechanics of Renew My Church, the ongoing archdiocese-wide initiative to better align resources with pastoral needs so that the archdiocese can better share the Gospel. Cardinal Cupich made it clear that all archdiocesan priests who were able to attend should be there, even advising pastors to cancel daily Masses in their parishes for those three days. Nacius said he thinks his parishioners understood the need for priests to renew themselves. His parish prayed for priests at the convocation the Sunday before and at the prayer services with Communion that took place during the gathering.