Newly Ordained Have Varied Backgrounds

WASHINGTON (CNS) – After he ordained six new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington June 15, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl encouraged them to take up the call of the new evangelization and help transform the world.

“This is the age of the new evangelization,” the cardinal said during an ordination Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, describing the call for Catholics to renew their faith, grow more confident in its truth, and share the good news of Christ with others. “This is the opportunity of our age. This is the call of our moment.”

In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, five men were ordained June 1 at St. Louis Cathedral and the newly ordained were prompted, literally, to “be on fire for the Lord.”

As newly ordained Fathers Colin Braud, Travis Clark, Gary Copping, Daniel Green and Jonathan Hemelt joined New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond around the altar for the eucharistic prayer, the cathedral’s smoke alarm, triggered by the thick cloud of incense, blared.

Undaunted, the archbishop continued with the preface, and the sound stopped after about 30 seconds and a few hastily opened doors. But before the final blessing, Archbishop Aymond told the standing-room-only congregation that the smoke alarm was a teachable moment.

On Fire for the Lord

“I think this was the first time we’ve ever had a fire drill during an ordination,” he said, eliciting laughter from the congregation. “Some of you may think it was because of the incense, but I think it’s because the newly ordained are just on fire for the Lord. In fact, I think we should have a fire drill at every ordination.”

Calling it “a joyful and glorious day in the life of the church,” Archbishop Aymond said the five new priests each had become aware of his priestly vocation in a different way, but each had discerned over the previous year of service as a deacon that God was calling him in a profound way.

Some 500 men have been ordained Catholic priests this year in the U.S. They were all ages and from all backgrounds. Many were born in the U.S.; others were from Columbia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Poland, Germany, Cuba, Haiti, El Salvador and Mexico.

In the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., Bishop Michael F. Burbidge ordained Fathers Nicholas Cottrill, Thomas Duggan and Ryan Elder June 1 at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary.

In the Archdiocese of Seattle, 58-year-old Father Mark Kiszelewski was ordained June 8 by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain at St. James Cathedral. The new priest, who has two grown sons from a marriage that was annulled in 2001, said he felt “a continued desire … to serve God and to serve his church as much as I could.”

His sons, Alex and Andrew, now 24 and 21, respectively, are supportive and excited about their dad being a priest.

And Father Kiszelewski believes his personal history, while unusual for a priest, will be a great asset in his priesthood, helping him relate to the experiences and struggles of his parishioners.

“I’ve been there,” he told The Progress, archdiocesan newspaper of Seattle. “I know what it’s like to be struggling with a teenager who’s rebellious … I’ve experienced a lot of the good and a lot of the tough things, but you get through it. …

“All those experiences give me at least a way of letting people know that I understand what’s going on, and that’s a good thing,” he added.

Elsewhere, seven men were ordained by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila May 18 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception; Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George also May 18 ordained 10 men hailing from Mexico, Poland, Uganda, Indiana and the Chicago area; and seven priests were ordained at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Conn., May 25 for the Diocese of Bridgeport by retired Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Conn.

One of the newly ordained priests for the Bridgeport Diocese is Father Joseph Gill who grew up in Frederick, Md. When people ask him why he wanted to be a priest, he said the short answer is that he “fell madly in love with God.”

“As a teen, I had a profound and personal encounter with Jesus Christ, who changed my life and gave me a joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding,” he said. “I want to give my life to Him and to make Him known and loved, so that He may set souls ablaze with a passion for holiness. In a word, I am striving to become a saint and help others become saints as well.”