Catholic Herald Staff
On June 24, feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Bishop James P. Powers ordained a new priest for the Diocese of Superior.
Richard Rhinehart, a native of Chicago, was accepted as a transferring seminarian in early 2017. He entered the seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago, but having spent summers growing up at his family’s cabin in Eagle River, Rhinehart chose to return to the Northwoods.
Accompanied by numerous priests and deacons – those of the Superior diocese, some representing St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee and others – the ordination was also witnessed by Rhinehart’s fellow seminarians, family, friends and laity from across the diocese.
Diocesan Vocations Director Fr. Thomas Thompson called Deacon Rhinehart forward and directed himself to the bishop, “Holy Mother Church asks you to ordain Richard, our brother, to the responsibility of the priesthood.”
Following the rubrics, Bishop Powers asked if the candidate was worthy. When Fr. Thompson responded with the ceremony’s formality testifying that he was, the bishop said, “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose Richard, our brother, for the order of priesthood.”
As directed, the congregation responded, “Thanks be to God.” In reaction to the applause, Rhinehart was notably moved, extending open hands and slightly bowing his head.
Then taking his place in a chair set apart on the altar, Bishop Powers directed himself to the elect, to Fr. John Hemsing, rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Fr. Luke Strand, vocation director for the seminary and others by name.
The bishop acknowledged Patsy and Robert Rhinehart, whose only child was about to be ordained.
“Thank you for the role you’ve played in nurturing and nourishing Richard, helping him to become to person he is today… For your role in supporting him in his journey in discerning both the diaconate and now the priesthood… Thank you for instilling in him the gift of your faith, helping him to grow in that knowledge and love of our Lord.”
Preaching on the readings for both the vigil and day masses for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist’s feast, he said, “Deacon Richard, today we celebrate your being formed in your mother’s womb, and your answering God’s call …”
“I hope and I pray that you never forget that you are called to be a herald to the Lord, pointing others to our God, helping them to recognize his presence in their lives and how they can better follow Him.”
He quoted reflections on the priesthood by both Pope-emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis. He invoked the Holy Spirit, “to come into our hearts, our church, our homes. Come and renew the face of the earth.
“Come, Holy Spirit, come. Come into our bother, soon to be Fr. Richard – that he may be a good and holy priest of the one true high priest.”
And he concluded, “Richard, may our God bless you today and every day. May he bless the Diocese of Superior through you this day and every day for the rest of your life.”
Described by his seminarian classmates as “genuine, gentle and kind”and “a man of great patience and perseverance,” Rhinehart prostrated himself before the altar as the Litany of Supplication was chanted.
As described in the liturgical program for the Rite of Ordination, the bishop laid his hands on the elect to confer the strength of the Holy Spirit; followed by all the priests present signifying the oneness of their shared priesthood.
After the Investiture and Anointing of Hands, the new priest’s parents brought forward the bread and wine to the bishop who presented them to Fr. Rhinehart.
To conclude the Rite, again starting with the bishop, all priests present share a sign of welcome with the newly ordained. Fr. Thompson embraced Fr. Rhinehart with a smile, and Fr. Patrick McConnell, pastor of St. Peter the Fisherman in Eagle River, offered a prolonged hug with two pats on the shoulder.
From his place seated next to his parents to start the mass, Fr. Rhinehart then took his seat next to his brother priests on the altar behind Bishop Powers.
Before the final blessing, Bishop Powers thanked everyone again for attending and motioned for Fr. Rhinehart to step forward and offer his own words.
Fr. Rhinehart expressed gratitude and said he looked forward to starting full ministry in River Falls – at St. Bridget’s Parish and school and at the city’s university campus.
Sharing that he has learned a lot from St. John the Baptist – whose own testimony for Christ was that “he must increase and I must decrease” – Fr. Rhinehart said it was a “very good lesson for us in our own spiritual life.
“We have to give ourselves over to Christ so he can fill us and we can spread the Good News and the gospel to the world.”