Father William Coughlin has been a priest for 40 years. Firm in hisdesire to be so from an early age, the former Haverhill resident hasgiven his life to the church and never doubted that was his calling.And after 16 years at Most Blessed Sacrament Church, he said he hopeshe can remain there as long as he is physically able.
One of three Roman Catholic Churches in Wakefield, MBS has amembership of 2,000 households and celebrates its 75th anniversary thisyear. The Catholic Church claims 65 million members in the UnitedStates and one billion members worldwide.
For Coughlin, who was also pastor at St Joseph’s Church on AlbionStreet from 1970-’80, being part of the church is a question of one’sfaith in Jesus.
Speaking in the dining room of the rectory on Grove Street, Coughlinsaid, “Jesus Christ is the center of human history and acts through thechurch by speaking to us in simple ways. Not by words, but in acts suchas putting people in our lives when we need them. He watches over andprotects us, and we make him part of our lives by the way we react tohim through prayer. Our God is not a distant God. He walked with us andhe is a friend to us all.”
Mass is held Monday through Friday at 7 a.m., Saturday at 8 a.m. and4 p.m. and four times on Sunday at 7:30, 9:30, 10:30 and noon, eachwith different readings and homilies.
“We come not for ourselves but to celebrate Jesus Christ,” Coughlin said.
With regard to the statement regarding Islamic violence and theensuing controversy begun by Pope Benedict, Coughlin said the HolyFather was trying to insist on reciprocity. “Freedom in the west forMuslims should mean freedom in Muslim lands for Christians and Jews. Hewas trying to open a dialogue and has not backed down from hisstatements. I fully support him.”
As for the clergy sex abuse scandal, Coughlin says it has had aprofound effect on the church. “People are angry and hurt and othersare more committed,” he said. “In part it’s helped us realize we needto go back to basic teachings.”
Even though many parishes have closed, more have opened and merged.With a great shortage of priests, Coughlin sees hope in the youngergeneration, especially those in their 20s and 30s yearning for faith.
There are no moves to alter the requirement for Catholic priests totake a vow of celibacy, and Coughlin says his opinion will not changein that regard. And while he doesn’t think women should be allowed tobecome priests, he is grateful for the role they have played in themodern church’s history. “We couldn’t do it without them,” he said.
Of the priesthood, he says you can’t take it for granted and mustalways be in awe of it. “You don’t realize the power and responsibilityyou have,” he said. “People look up to and depend on you. It keeps youbusy, but it’s wonderful work.”
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