“You are Peter, and on This Rock, I will build My Church”
By Sally Leslie 2008-06-29
Ordination in the Diocese of Springfield, June 2008.
Considering the current vocations crisis, especially in the Diocese of Springfield, in Massachusetts, I had the great honor and privilege to witness as Mark Glover, Sean O’Mannion, and Jonathan Reardon, on answering God’s Call, were ordained to the priesthood of Christ. While only three men were ordained, Saturday, June 28, 2008 was a day of hope for the Diocese of Springfield as these three Candidates for Ordination were joined by 20 other diocesan seminarians and candidates.
The Cathedral of St. Michael was almost full. In addition to the family, friends, and sundry well-wishers, close to 80 of the Diocese’s approximately 100 priests were in attendance. While the Rite of Ordination occurred on the heals of the unexpected passing of 61-y.o. Fr. Richard Runte, Bishop McDonnell called Saturday’s ordination “a day of joy”. Being a critical classical musician, I was overjoyed with the music. It was right and fitting for an Ordination. Under the direction of Ladislaw Pfeifer, The Cathedral Choir of Boys and Adults was truly glorious. Their voices rose to heaven as a celestial choir. The voices were balanced, with the descant floating like that of an angel’s song. The brass and organ lent not only support to the Choir, but added another layer to the prayerfulness of the day.
This particular New England Saturday began with an overcast sky. The humidity added a steamy coating to the air. However, the excitement of the Holy Orders about to be bestowed was not quelled. As the time for the Mass neared, the sunshine broke through the cloudy haze in an almost symbolic blessing from heaven. To this writer, all of heaven was shining down with joy on what was about to take place.
As I walked into the Cathedral, Morning Prayer was just finishing, as the choir invited the people to join them in the singing of the Canticle of Zechariah . One could feel the love and quiet buzz of anxious anticipation as those gathered awaited the entrance of the three Candidates for Ordination. As soon as the Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts) ended, the Processional began —“Go Make of All Disciples” . The Knights of Columbus were in place, with their scabbards raised, and one could hear the gasps of the congregation as the Processional Cross made its way down the aisle. Our three Candidates for Ordination beamed as they made their way down the aisle. One could see the difficulty they had in restraining their exuberant child-like joy, and this was just the beginning. The Mass progressed with soon-to-retire Msgr. Sneizyk giving the Homily. I have to admit, I don’t remember everything that he spoke about, and I,too, have to wonder if Mark, Sean, and Jonathan remember. What I do recall Msgr. saying was for these men to love the Church and the Eucharist, and to consecrate their priesthood to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One needs to wonder if there is anything else more important.
As the Rite of Ordination began, I decided to sneak into one of the side balconies, located just to the side of the Sanctuary. Along with a few others, we had a “bird’s eye” view of the Ordination that others in the Nave lacked. We saw the Candidates as they were called forward and presented, elected and examined by the Bishop, and if that wasn’t enough, we had the joy of seeing these men prostrate on the floor during the Litany of Supplication; this awesome sight of total submission to God; the laying down of their lives for Jesus Christ and His Church. Following the Litany of Supplication, the most solemn part of the ordination rite was done in silence. It was the Laying on of Hands. After Bishop McDonnell laid his hands on the priest candidates’ heads, all of the priests present participated in this ancient biblical gesture beseeching God to empower the candidates by the Holy Spirit. As each priest did so, he joined the others in the Sanctuary for the chanting of the Veni Creator Spiritus . Following the Veni Creator Spiritus , the bishop prayed the great “Prayer of Consecration” asking God to grant the candidates “the dignity of the priesthood”. After the Prayer of Consecration, each of the candidates had a brother priest of his choosing clothe him with the vestments associated with the ordained priest: the priestly stole and chasuble. With the investiture complete, the part that I awaited for—the Anointing of the Hands. Here, Bishop McDonnell anointed the palms of the new priests with the Oil of Chrism. (For those reading who don’t recall what Chrism is, it is a symbol, here, of Christ the High Priest, who has offered the one and unique sacrifice.) The bishop then handed each newly-ordained priest the gifts of bread and the wine and water, which would be used during the Holy Eucharist. Finally, to signify the bond of unity, the bishop gave the Kiss of Peace to the new priests. He was followed by all of the priests in attendance. Truly, this was a moving sight to see. It was difficult not to have tears welling as I gazed on the beauty of the priestly brotherhood.
One of the amazing blessings of attending the ordination was exactly that: the blessing. The first blessing received of newly-ordained priests holds an indulgence. Fr. Mark, Fr. Sean, and Fr. John were readily available to the people in order to bestow their first blessing. It was wonderful to see and hear excitement and anticipation of people waiting in line; an act of patience for many. I continually thank God for the young men who listen to His voice and answer the Call to the Priesthood. For without them, we would not be able to have the Eucharist. Please join me in continuing to pray for vocations to the priesthood, for with these vocations the Church of Peter will continue to be built.
Prayer for Vocations: Lord Jesus, you have told us to ask, and we will receive; to seek, and we will find; to knock, and the door will be opened. You have enriched your Church with laity and deacons, religious women and men, priests and bishops, to serve you people with fidelity, generosity and joy. With trust and confidence in your promise and presence, we pray for a new Pentecost. In the Fathers love, and the Spirits wisdom, touch the hearts and strengthen the faith of our youth. Recognizing their gifts and goodness, call from among them ministers of Word and Sacrament to bring your peace to the world. We ask this blessing through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Mother of the Church. Amen.