The new generation of ordained priests is a cause for joy
I feel good. In the last several weeks I have attended two ceremonies in which young men were ordained priests. In my home diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, I saw five fine candidates receive Holy Orders and become priests, and a week later in Fort Wayne, Indiana — near Our Sunday Visitor headquarters — I was present as three other worthy young men were ordained priests.
In both cases, everyone was happy, especially the parents. Parents are not only pleased to see their sons choose a worthy course to pursue in life, but also to watch their sons literally give their lives totally to the Lord Jesus.
People do not always think about this, but as long as the parents of a priest live, they will be the most cherished human beings in their son’s hearts. They will be not only his first human concern but always his most treasured source of support.
At both ordinations, the presiding bishops — Bishop Mark Spalding in the Diocese of Nashville and Bishop Kevin Rhoades in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend — not only congratulated the parents but thanked them for providing the atmosphere in which their sons formed their love for the Lord: a love that grew so intensely that their sons wanted — above and beyond everything else — to follow Jesus in the awesome task of bringing hope and peace to people as a priest.
I was reminded of the rite of baptism, when the priest tells the infant’s parents that they will guide his or her first steps in the Faith. What an opportunity for parents themselves to make an imprint for the better of their children and the whole world!
Everything in Nashville and in Fort Wayne was happy. The ordinations were inspiring, uplifting and exciting. I will not say that a cloud laid over either occasion, but I suppose that it did. At the reception in Nashville following the ceremony, a man asked me for my opinion about former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. It was understandable. All Catholics have suffered much because of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
I doubt if the new priests were confronted as I was, but nonetheless they know what is happening. One shared that he owed so very much to the good priests whom he had known, and while he admitted that there are some bad apples in the barrel, the presence of good priests is overwhelming.
The priesthood is about following the Lord. Another new priest said that he never felt alone, lonely or at a loss. He said that every morning when he wakes up, before anything else, he immediately prays an old Irish prayer attributed to St. Patrick: “I arise today, through the strength of Christ’s birth and his baptism, through the strength of his crucifixion and his burial, through the strength of his resurrection and his ascension; I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me.”
This prayer has stayed with me. How blessed would we all be if we understood how much we need the Lord and how much the Lord provides for us. Just follow him.
The ordinations gave me the opportunity to reconnect with seminarians both in Nashville and Fort Wayne. I asked the seminarians about their studies and their formation.
Maybe we are seeing the proof of this modern seminary formation. We rarely hear of a young priest who leaves the priesthood to be married because he did not know what celibacy entailed. We hear of no young priests accused of sexually abusing youth.
Bottom line: Seminaries are doing a superb job. God be praised for leading us from night to day. God bless our young priests.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.