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: