Catholic Explorer: Diocese is jubilant at ordination of newest priest

Full story: Catholic Explorer :: Diocese is jubilant at ordination of newest priest

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JOLIET—Over 300 friends, relatives, peers and mentors were on-hand to celebrate the ordination of Patrick Mulcahy, 41, to the priesthood June 3 at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet.

 

As uplifting liturgical music reverberated throughout the sanctuary, Mulcahy entered the house of worship accompanied by more than 30 priests as well as deacons and seminarians from across the Joliet Diocese. “I was really overwhelmed with emotion,” he stated, reflecting upon the experience after the celebration. He admitted that the entrance procession “just left me speechless.”

 

“This is one of those special days when we recognize the presence of the Lord among us as we celebrate this sacrament of ordination,” said Bishop Joseph L. Imesch in his address to the congregation.

The Explorer had a very nice article on the front page this week about my ordination. And yes, I am still overwhelmed in a lot of ways! What an awesome thing. Tomorrow, I head to DesMoines for the ordination of one of my friends. This is the first time I'll actually get to lay hands on one of my friends in the ceremony, which is extremely cool!

In Thanksgiving

The following is taken from the Thanksgiving that I printed at the end of the worship aid for my First Mass:

Where do I start to give thanks for everyone and everything that has led me to this particular moment in my life? So many have given so much of themselves in order to contribute to my formation and to support me in every possible way during the last five years in seminary. I’m so grateful for every experience – both the joyful ones and the difficult ones – that have made it possible for me to more fully follow God’s call in my life.

The place we always start, of course, is with Almighty God. It is God who created me and God who formed me. It is God who called me from my mother’s womb – before I ever knew God myself. It is God who tests me and God who loves me and God who is the grace by which I can do things I’m not capable of. It is God whose presence in my life makes it possible for me to get out of bed every day and eagerly anticipate whatever will be part of my life in that day. It is God who continues to call me to repentance and God who forgives and God who blesses and encourages and sends me out to do His will. It is God who makes sense of all the things that confound me and God who is the abiding presence in my life, calming my storms or, more often, just calming me. God is the reason for this day and every day. I don’t have adequate words to convey my gratitude to God for all He has done for me; my prayer is that my life will be that thanksgiving, day in and day out.

My heart is completely full of thanksgiving for my family and friends, and especially my parents. Not only have they been completely supportive of this momentous – and rather late – step in my life, but they have been the reason for it in the first place. It was from my parents and grandparents that I first learned the faith and first experienced God. God has used them to show me grace and love and teach me to look for God in every person and in every experience. That faith has given me so much in my life. I am grateful also to my wonderful sisters, Sharon and Peggy, to my brother-in-law John, to my nieces Julia and Molly, my nephew Danny, to all of my aunts and uncles and cousins, and to all of my friends. All these have been family to me, have been sources of God’s love and grace, and have been supportive in ways that have made this journey so much richer. To all of my family and friends, I say thank you for everything you have always given me in my life.

I am thankful, too, to Bishop Imesch, Bishops Kaffer and Schlarman, to Fr. John Regan, our outgoing vocation director, to the faculty and staff of Mundelein Seminary, to all of my field education supervisors, and all those I have served in those assignments, to everyone in my home parish here at St. Petronille and all who have been part of my formation in one way or another. To say that this five-year journey of formation has been rewarding is the biggest understatement I can make! Thank you all for being part of that.

To paraphrase an ancient Jewish prayer: if I had just received all of this love and support, if I had just had this magnificent journey of formation, dayenu, it would have been enough. But to have all of that and be brought to service as a priest of Jesus Christ, well, my heart overflows. Thank you all. Thank God.

+ Fr. Pat

Ordination

Quite a few people have asked me what the Ordination was like for me. Of course, it’s a little beyond words. This whole weekend was certainly the most awesome time of my life; a time where I know God was really working in me and guiding me to where I was created to be in the first place.

Walking into the Cathedral, I was really overwhelmed with emotion. The beauty of the music, the decorations, all of my relatives and friends, as well as the procession of soon-to-be brother priests just left me speechless — literally. I tried to sing the processional song — “Laudate, Laudate Dominum” — one of my favorites, but the words just wouldn’t come out! Clearly, I was meant to be taking this all in, and sometimes that’s best done in silence.

There were several very moving moments for me during the actual Rite of Ordination. When Bishop Imesch said “we choose this man, our brother, for the Order of Priesthood,” I was so filled with joy. Those are the words I had been preparing to hear for five years. Then, as I knelt for the Bishop and priests to lay hands on me, all of which took place in silence, I was really struck by how ancient a rite this is. The apostles first laid hands on Stephen and six other men to become the first deacons of the Church (Acts 6:5-6), and the practice has continued through the ages of the Church, and now to me.

Perhaps the most moving moment for me, though, was after the prayer of Ordination, when I was vested by Fr. Bill Dewan, the pastor from my internship in my second year of theology, and Fr. Jim Donovan, my spiritual director. When the diaconal stole was removed and the presbyteral stole put on, I almost literally felt the Spirit vesting me. At that point, the fact that I was now a Priest of Jesus Christ was very real, and I was once again overwhelmed. By the time my hands were anointed, I was very glad that I had the opportunity to go to the sacristy to wash my hands, because, quite frankly, I needed some time to compose myself. The joy that I then felt as my brother priests offered me the sign of peace, and when I was escorted to my new place among the concelebrating priests in the sanctuary, was better than anything I’ve ever experienced.

Then there was my First Mass of Thanksgiving yesterday at St. Petronille. My homily from that Mass is here.

I was very honored to have a number of my brother priests concelebrating, as well as two of my classmates. Fr. Greg Labus, ordained last year for the diocese of Brownsville, Texas, concelebrated the Mass, and Deacon (soon-to-be Fr.) Chris Reising, to be ordained this coming Friday in DesMoines, Iowa, was my deacon. Many of my friends and family, as well as a number of parishioners from St. Petronille, were there to help me celebrate as well. The choir was composed (no pun intended) of many of my former choir members, some of my family, and folks with whom I’ve worked in music ministry along the way. They were incredible, and the music was a welcome addition to the prayer.

I was rather nervous, as you might expect, getting ready for Mass. I took time to pray, but even then, I didn’t calm down until the Sprinkling Rite. I must admit, I probably enjoyed bestowing the fullness of the sign of water on my friends and family a bit too much! But that was what I needed to relax, and to focus on each part of the Mass rather than anticipate what came next (advice given to me by Fr. Dan Bachner). The joy of celebrating the Eucharist for the first time was absolutely incredible, and I feel so incredibly blest to be a Priest of Jesus Christ.

I am so grateful for everything so many have done to make this weekend so beautiful. From Sr. Sharon of the Office of Divine Worship, to the choirs for both Ordination and my First Mass, to my brother priests, family and friends — everything was wonderful. Thank you all!

So, you’re probably looking for pictures. Soon, I promise!

Update: Here are a couple of articles recently published by The Catholic Explorer, our diocesan newspaper, about my then-upcoming ordination:

The Mystery of the Lord’s Cross

Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God.
Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate,
and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

— The Rite of Ordination

These words from the Rite of Ordination have sobered and well, almost haunted me in the last few months of my formation. Not that they are surprising, but they certainly get right to the point of what priesthood, and indeed the whole spiritual life, is about. For in Baptism, we are indeed all crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and the life we live is not our own. Christ himself taught us that we must lay down our lives for our friends, as he did (John 15:13).

This is true in a special way for the priest, who is called to offer the Sacrifice, and who must respond to the needs of God’s people. In a little over twenty-four hours, my life will no longer be my own, and I will be often called on to die to myself to follow Christ and do His work.

The strength to do that comes from Christ himself, who sends us His Holy Spirit to give us the grace to do what we cannot do on our own. The joy that comes from that grace is immeasurable. Conforming my life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross is a serious responsibility, but also a great source of peace and joy.

Pilgrimage

I promised myself that for this week before Ordination, I would take the time to visit some of the Churches that have been important to me along the way for Mass and some prayer. That has been an amazing experience: a real opportunity to look back on all of my life and see how God has been active in the various communities in which I’ve lived. Monday was lost because I was on a plane all day, but Tuesday started out at my home parish, where I was the deacon for daily Mass (yes, that’s unusual there too, but was nice for me). Yesterday I went just one parish north of that to the place where I grew up and received first Reconciliation and Confirmation. Today I went to the Abbey across from my college, and in which community I once discerned a vocation as a monk.

Tomorrow I will go to the church of my Baptism, which my family moved away from when I was an infant. So I’ve never really remembered being there. It’s not a terribly long drive, so I am looking forward to it. I also plan to go into the city tomorrow for Confession.

Pilgrimage, whatever form it takes, is a beautiful thing because we actually physically move toward the Lord in some way. This physical journey for me has been showing me the many ways God has called me throughout my life, and has helped me to reflect on my response to that call. It has also helped me to be grateful for the call, in its many forms, throughout my days.