Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Priest Photographed at Accident Scene Shares Message of Prayer, Hope and Priestly Ministry

Father John Killackey, FSSP, carries holy oils as he walks from the accident scene on Interstate 81 on July 8, in this photo taken by an unidentified motorist. The priest is assistant chaplain at the Mater Dei Latin Mass community in Harrisburg.

The extraordinary photo of Father John Killackey, FSSP, at the scene of a traffic accident where he administered Last Rites to a victim says more than a thousand words.
It also tells the message that he wants to share about the experience: This is the ministry of a priest. This is what a spiritual Father is called to do. And any priest would have done the same.
Father Killackey, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, is assistant chaplain at the Mater Dei Latin Mass Community in Harrisburg. He is the center of a poignant photo that has made news and social media rounds in the days since the July 8 accident on Interstate 81 South in Lebanon County.
The photo, taken by an unidentified motorist, looks at first glance like a painting. The pouring rain blurs lines and mutes colors. Father Killackey, holy oils in hand, walks between tractor trailers to see how he may assist.
The anonymity of the photo is something he appreciates, because it shares a clear message.
“It shows ‘This is what the priesthood is,’” Father Killackey told The Catholic Witness in an interview July 13.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the priesthood,” he said. “The priest is another Christ. I was there to give Our Lord in the sacraments if someone needed it.”
Father Killackey estimates the multi-vehicle accident on that stretch of the interstate occurred just moments before he came upon the scene. His car was the third to stop behind the wreck.
“I just wanted to get out and make sure everybody was OK, or see if they needed the sacraments,” he said. “I got out of the car and grabbed the oils that were with me.”
He was directed to a truck driver, to whom he administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
“I think it was Providential that I was able to be there, and I think other priests would have done the exact same thing. That’s what we are here for, to bring Our Lord to people in all moments of their lives but especially in difficult moments and when they are preparing to meet God at death,” Father Killackey said.
He asked for prayers for the deceased and his family, and expressed profound gratitude for the first responders.
“I was very happy to assist, but I was one of many. There were numbers of EMTs, police, firefighters doing a lot of work to save lives. They’re out there doing it every day, and credit definitely needs to be given to them. They were out there within minutes, and it was beautiful to see so many going out there to try to help others,” he said.
Father Killackey is a native of New Jersey, and was ordained on May 24, 2019. His ministry as assistant chaplain at the Mater Dei Community is his first assignment. The community participates in the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly known as the Traditional Latin Mass.
Reflecting on the extraordinary circumstances of ministering at the scene of an accident, Father Killackey recalled the words a priest told him in seminary: “When you become a priest, you write God a blank check.”
“We go where we are called, and when we are needed,” Father Killackey said.
He said he hopes the attention the photo has garnered will illustrate for others the ministry of the priest and present a message of hope.
“As a priest, you have a fatherly care for the people around you. It’s a vocation, like a mother or a father caring for and loving their children. A priest is ordained to be that other Christ to people, especially in their moments of need,” he said.
“Yes, there will always be problems in the world and in our own personal lives. Our Lord never promised that this life would be easy, but he did promise that he would be with us. Christ is the answer to all of our difficulties, and we unite our sufferings to him. He is the answer. He will give the peace that alone can satisfy us,” he said.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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