My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On Saturday, June 28, through the Grace of God, I will ordain 13 men to the priesthood for service to the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. Some superstition surrounds the number 13. For some it is bad luck, yet for others, especially for Italians, it is a lucky number since the Feast of St. Anthony falls on the 13th of June.
For many, 13 truly is a baker’s dozen, 12 plus one, a full complement. We are blessed since I am told that our 13 ordinands are the most for any diocese in the U.S. Certainly, this is the most men I will ordain to the priesthood since I began my Episcopal ministry among you ten-and-half years ago. We have great reason to rejoice, for we have no difficulty in placing all of these men in assignments in Brooklyn and Queens, as we are in need of those who can serve the diverse population of the diocese.
In one of my recent columns, an explanation was given for the vocation plan that was presented at the recent vocation summit. The reason for the plan is that we need more people involved in recruiting and helping others discern vocations. In fact, it is the work of everyone in the diocese, in one way or another, either through prayer, identification or support of vocations to the priesthood.
While the Diocese of Brooklyn does much to support lay involvement, as well as respecting and integrating the role of religious men and women, without the ordained priesthood the Church cannot engage itself in the New Evangelization. We have already received some positive comments regarding this vocation summit. In fact, one of our priests has already begun his own discernment group with young men in his parish following the guidebook entitled, “To Save A Thousand Souls,” which was distributed to all parishes. The more we ask the Lord of the Harvest to send us laborers, the more we labor ourselves and the more the Lord will bless us.
If we were to look at the profiles of the Class of 2014, we see how they reflect the population and the needs in our diocese. Of the 13, eight were born in the U.S., and five are foreign-born. However, one of those five grew up in the diocese. One of those to be ordained is a member of the Neocatecumenal Way, the first for this community to be ordained for our diocese. He is incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn serving in a parish, however, at the same time serving the needs of the now eight parishes where the Neocatecumenal Way is growing.
Two of the other foreign-born come from the SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary where our own Msgr. Thomas Machalski is its rector. Each year we have been receiving one or two men from this seminary to serve not only the Polish-speaking of our diocese but also to serve our general population.
Two of the Haitian-born men also come to us with many skills, which will be used to serve not only the Haitian population but also others.
Five of the men are of Hispanic origin: one from Ecuador, one from Honduras, one from Nicaragua, one from the Dominican Republic and another from Cuba, as well as one whose father was Puerto Rican. This represents the vocations of the second generation which are truly a sign that the Hispanic population is coming of age and is now producing for us vocations to serve its own people.
In many parishes, I often hear the request to “send us a Spanish priest,” which means “not one who speaks Spanish but one who is of Hispanic origin.” My response is, “Do you have any sons? Send them to me, and I will ordain them.” The fact is this is now the reality. We are receiving vocations from the Hispanic Catholic community, which numbers more than half of the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. We need, however, many more vocations to the priesthood.
As you will see next week in the profiles in The Tablet, one of the ordinands is a retired New York City school teacher, another holds a master’s degree in biological sciences and the others all come with various talents unique to them. We thank the Lord of the Harvest for this abundant harvest and continue to plead to Him for more laborers.
As these 13 men put out into the deep mystery of living the priesthood, with all of its challenges and consolations, please join me in praying for them as they will be ordained on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We commend and consecrate them to her, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of Priests, that her maternal affections will follow them throughout the course of their priesthood.