Catholic News Service
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — With words of welcome into a new friendship with Jesus, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ordained five men to the priesthood in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The ordination June 2 marked the largest class in the diocese in 43 years.
Hundreds of the faithful pressed into the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception to witness the ceremony. The congregation included dozens of priests and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.
Bishop Rhoades acknowledged the historic occasion during opening remarks before beginning the Mass, saying that the new priests’ vocation was an answer to prayers that God would send laborers to the vineyard.
The group included Father Patrick Hake and Father David Huneck of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Father Jay Horning of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Paris, Father Nathan Maskal of St. Charles Borromeo Parish and Father Thomas Zehr of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, all in Fort Wayne.
The class size was not the only unique factor of this year’s ordination class, however. Four of the five men — Fathers Hake, Huneck, Maskal, and Zehr — are graduates of Fort Wayne’s Bishop Dwenger High School from the class of 2009.
Even with this high school connection, their paths to the priesthood varied.
Father Maskal and Father Zehr entered the seminary after high school graduation. Father Hake and Father Huneck discerned their callings while attending college. Father Horning, who was not Catholic when he entered the University of St. Francis, began his discernment shortly after becoming Catholic.
In his homily welcoming the men to the priesthood, Bishop Rhoades recalled the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”
The bishop also cited retired Pope Benedict XVI, who said that becoming the friend of Jesus Christ is “the profound meaning of being a priest.”
The bishop explained how Jesus makes the candidates for priesthood his friends through entrusting to them his body and blood in the Eucharist and the church. He said Jesus “draws them into the mystery of his priesthood in such a way that they will be empowered to say words that only Jesus can say” in the forgiveness of sin in confession and during the consecration of each Mass.
“Today the Lord places his hands on Patrick, Jay, David, Nathan and Thomas, making them share in the mystery of his priesthood,” Bishop Rhoades said.
The sharing in his priesthood includes “giving them a new identity … sending them forth to proclaim his Gospel to the world, to be his ambassadors.”
The bishop told the quintet that they will have “a very personal dimension to this unique friendship with Christ.” It would be a friendship that involves commitments to celibacy and obedience to Christ “through your promise of obedience to me and my successors,” he said.
Another part of the personal dimension of their friendship with Jesus, Bishop Rhoades explained, is speaking and listening to Jesus. He spoke of how Jesus would withdraw from the crowds to pray alone, stressing that priests need this solitude; and that time in prayer “is not wasted time.” He warned the candidates that if they neglected their spiritual lives, their ministry would suffer and that their parishioners also would suffer.
“Only with prayer, our prayer and those who pray for us, do we receive the strength to carry the crosses of priestly life and ministry today,” Bishop Rhoades said.
He encouraged the candidates to make priestly fraternity a priority, “living the sacramental communion that is part of priestly identity.”
Bishop Rhoades ended his homily by speaking of the upcoming litany of saints when the Lord would pour out upon the candidates “the power of priestly grace.” The first saint invoked in the litany is Mary, he noted, because “she loves and watches over the friends of her son.”
He encouraged the men to take Mary into “the interior home of your priesthood” like St. John the Apostle. He added that St. John Paul II taught that Mary, “with a mother’s love, will do everything in her power so that the priestly brothers of her son, who become his friends, may not betray this holy friendship.”
Before the final blessing after the ordination ceremony, Bishop Rhoades again addressed the sentiment experienced throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend because of the larger class of ordinandi.
“There is much joy and thanksgiving throughout our diocese today since this is the biggest ordination class in 43 years,” he said.
Bishop Rhoades also noted that another fruit of the Holy Spirit in the diocese, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, would be celebrating later in the summer the profession of perpetual vows by four sisters, the largest group for their congregation also in 43 years.
Dustman writes for Today’s Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.