‘I do, with the help of God’


Why have so many people come so far?

"They are good men and will do great things," says Jordan Neeck, referring to friends Clifford Hennings, Colin King and Roger Lopez. Jordan is so sure of this that he drove 500 miles from his home, a Norbertine Abbey in Wisconsin, to be part of their ordinations June 11 at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati. "I’m here to share in the joy in celebrating their accomplishment and the grace given by God to accept this call."

In fact, the supporters who fill the sanctuary are almost as excited as the participants.

"I wouldn’t have missed this for the world," says Chicagoan Marc Butiong, who once spent seven days in Jamaica with the three friars "bringing Eucharist to the sick, helping at the soup kitchen, painting homes for the homeless, putting together care packages for Christmas." As a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, "It was my foray into being a man of faith. I thank God for them in my life."

Relatives and lifelong friends feel included and appreciated, with good reason. The three being ordained – Roger and Clifford to the priesthood, Colin to the diaconate – know that ordination does not set them above or apart from other people. It brings them closer.

"Truly blessed"

David Lukinovich, a friend of Clifford’s family, remembers the kid they called "CD" [for Certificate of Deposit] because "he was going to knock it out of the park in the business world." Here from Baton Rouge, La., David says the grown-up Clifford "glows with happiness and joy."

"We come from a lot of different places," acknowledges Master of Ceremonies Fr. Richard Goodin welcoming guests to an event that seems more like a family reunion than a formal ritual. Ordaining Bishop Joseph Binzer, familiar to friars, is comfortable with this crowd. When Colin’s selection is affirmed by applause, the Bishop responds, "I thought I heard some angels and saints applauding along with us."

As is his custom, Bishop Binzer met the three friars for a pre-ordination lunch and conversation at what he calls "a gourmet restaurant." Dining at Skyline Chili, they discussed "their hopes for the future, their trust in the Lord and how truly blessed they are." When the Bishop asked them, "What might I say to everyone else who is here?" they said, "That everyone who is here today might fall in love more deeply with Jesus Christ, that all of us might commit to serving the Lord."

In his homily the Bishop quotes a News Notes story in which Colin expressed his excitement and Clifford and Roger talked about serving as Franciscan priests. He also quotes from an address Pope Francis gave during the Jubilee for Priests in Rome. "The Heart of the Good Shepherd tells us that his love is limitless; it is never exhausted and it never gives up," the Pope told priests. And one papal pronouncement the Bishop especially likes: "He [the priest] is stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one."

Turning to the three friars, the Bishop says, "Thanks for being great examples for all of us of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Know that we are here not just today but [always] to pray for you and support you."

He calls them forward for the Promise – first Colin, then Clifford and Roger. Each responds to the final query with, "I do, with the help of God."

"May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment," says Bishop Binzer.

A touching Litany

The ceremony unfolds with a sight not often seen, three friars lying prostrate in the aisle, as cantors Br. John Barker and Sacred Heart friar Br. Ed Shea, a comrade in the 2009 walking pilgrimage, intone the Litany of the Saints.

It is the interactions of friars that leave a lasting impression: Br. Gene Mayer fussing with Colin’s vestments; tears from Fr. Paul Walsman; bear hugs from Fr. Ric Schneider for the newly ordained; the ear-to-ear grins of Fr. Larry Zurek and Fr. Joe Ricchini.

After Communion, Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler expresses "deep and profound gratitude" to teachers and formators "who have accompanied our brothers along the way," as well as their families. "Thank you for your support over the years. We promise to try to cherish them as much as you will continue to do."

And to Clifford, Colin and Roger he says, "Thank you for your generosity, your willingness to serve." Jeff hopes that "what we have called them to today will go not to their heads, but to their hearts."

Brotherly love For Roger’s Mom, Carlotta Lopez, the best moment was "seeing the brotherly love; it’s very touching."

"It was so heartfelt, so beautiful, such a genuine thing to see how much joy they had," says David’s daughter, Mary Lukinovich, who has known Clifford "all my life".

Clifford chose the friars, says his mother, Susan Hennings, because of "the brotherhood. Watching the priests come and lay their hands on Roger and Clifford was probably the most touching." Her son Seth, 20, was moved "seeing my brother give Eucharist for the first time."

When Roger was an altar boy, says Carlotta, "The pastor told me, ‘You’ve got a priest on your hands.’" In high school Roger was voted "most spiritual, most likely to be a priest." For Carlotta’s part, "I just prayed he would make the right decisions."

As for Clifford and Colin, open minds and open hearts have helped them find the way. Susan says of her son, "He’s definitely where God wants him to be."

More photos at our Flickr album Ordinations 2016