Sharing the joy
Ordinations give provinces something to celebrate
BY TONI CASHNELLI
A moment captured on camera illustrates the mood at St. Clement Church.
Before the ordinations of Br. Colin King and Br. John Aherne on June 10, friars from three provinces laughingly take their places for the procession.
The camaraderie is real, and it’s contagious. Colin – about to become a priest – is an SJB friar, and John – soon to be a deacon – is from Holy Name. Sacred Heart’s Br. Bob Barko and Br. Marc Sheckells are Deacon and Thurifer.
This is a "wonderful opportunity", says Bishop Joe Binzer, presider and homilist. "It’s the provinces working together as they continue their conversations."
"This is a great thing," says Acolyte Br. Juan de la Cruz Turcios, a member of Holy Name Province who is part of an interprovincial friary in Chicago. "It helps us get to know each other."
The historic implications mean little to the friends and families who pack the church to show their support. They just want their loved ones, two very good friars, to realize their dreams.
"I’m happy," says John’s mom Bridget, here from Queens, N.Y., with husband Daniel and sister-in-law Margaret Aherne. Years ago nuns at their home parish were impressed with young John’s ability to train other altar servers. "He had it in his head" to enter religious life, she says. "I had it in my head, too."
John’s Aunt Margaret describes him as "a very kind, generous boy who was great with people and never did anything bad." Still, "I never in my wildest dreams" imagined he would one day pursue the priesthood.
For Colin’s dad, Tunney King, "This is a great event. He’s always been attracted to a spiritual life." Mom Norah tries to keep her emotions in check. "My grandmother and my mother would have been so pleased."
Distance did not deter friends from coming. Lynn and Howard Neeck of northern Wisconsin met Colin through their son Jordan, a Norbertine. "Colin has been at Jordan’s abbey for three ordinations," says Lynn. "We feel like we’ve gotten to know him. He’s so full of life and energy, a humble and good person. He really wants to help people," especially the children of Jamaica, where Colin will serve. "When he talks about the program to get kids to school, his eyes light up."
Friend and mentor Fr. Joe Cavoto of Holy Name Province came from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York to help with John’s vesting. "I would see him at Mass in the morning," he says of their early acquaintance. "He just had such a look about him. I could see something was going on. Then he started to lector at Mass." One day over coffee Joe asked John, "’Have you ever thought about religious life?’ Within a year he made application."
As a deacon, "I think he’s gonna go to the hearts of people, especially those who have suffered," Joe says. "That’s where he wants to go."
Master of Ceremonies Fr. Richard Goodin runs hither and yon, dispensing instructions. Thanks to his diligence and direction, there is nary a hitch in the proceedings. When the procession begins, it is obvious the prep paid off.
"It’s an honor to welcome you on behalf of many people," says Fr. Mark Soehner, Provincial Minister of St. John the Baptist Province. He recognizes family members, friends from far places, friars from Holy Name, Sacred Heart and Christ the King provinces. "Thank you for coming to this incredible event."
Following the readings Bishop Binzer questions Holy Name Vicar Fr. Lawrence Hayes about John’s worthiness to be ordained a deacon. When John is accepted he looks to his parents, smiles and nods, accepting the applause.
"Do you know him to be worthy?" the Bishop asks Mark of Colin. "Thanks be to God," all respond and applaud when the answer is affirmative.
Bishop Binzer’s homily reflects the hope he sees around him. "It’s a good day for smiling," he says. "There will be lots of pictures after as we try to capture the feeling." Today we’re making history, he acknowledges, "a history that includes a young man named Colin and a young man named John."
Earlier that week the Bishop attended a meeting about St. Anthony Center in Over-the-Rhine, an emerging hub of outreach for neighbors in need. Addressing guests, Executive Director Chris Schuermann of St. Francis Seraph Ministries drew upon the wisdom of author Brian Doyle. "She encouraged us to think about the word ‘Catholic’ not as a noun but as a verb, an action verb," the Bishop says. "Maybe we can make use of ‘priest’ and ‘deacon’ as verbs."
He cites a video about John and his vocation journey he found online. "Since the beginning he has had something inside him that called him," he says. "Thank you for having an open heart in following Jesus."
From SJB’s newsletter, he learned that Colin happily did "whatever he was invited to do" in his deacon internship. "The key for you is to be with people," he says, echoing the essence of the interview. "Thank you for having an open heart in following Christ."
‘You are chosen’
"John and Colin, as you are ordained you will serve in imitation of Jesus Christ," the Bishop says. "What an awesome example our sweet Lord gives to us. You will have the opportunity to reach out in love to others." And he reminds them, "We serve not by our strength, but by the strength of Jesus Christ."
Recently, he says, Pope Francis spoke to young priests "about God’s action in our lives. "You are chosen; you are dear to the Lord," he told them. "God will not let your steps waver."
"John and Colin, you are dear to the Lord," the Bishop echoes. "God will not let your steps waver." The Pope’s advice to the priests: "Pray without ceasing. You can be fishers of men and women only after we realize we have been caught by the tenderness of God’s love."
And the Bishop tells Colin and John, "If we depended only on our strength it would be easy to be frustrated. Continue to stretch out your hands to the Lord and call on him. Know that we are here to support you and love you. May the fullness of God’s peace, blessings and grace be upon you each and every day."
He accepts the promise of John for the diaconate, the promise of Colin for the priesthood. Side by side they lie prostrate while Cantor John Barker intones the Litany of the Saints.
"Teach what you believe and practice what you teach," the Bishop tells John as he is ordained. And to the newly ordained Colin, "Understand what you do; imitate what you celebrate."
Standing side by side, they accept the hugs and good wishes of the gathered priests and deacons. The emotion of the gesture – and its heightened significance – is lost on no one.
Offering his congratulations to Colin and John, HNP’s Lawrence Hayes extends "a very special thanks to their parents. Francis said, ‘The Lord gave me brothers’. We feel doubly blessed in being part of this interprovincial celebration." SJB’s Mark Soehner agrees, "We are blessed to celebrate with Holy Name friars."
Even Acolyte Juan, no stranger to collaboration, is impressed. "It’s amazing to know there is so much in common," he says of the provinces. "We share the same story. In the end we are just one big family."
More photos on Flickr