Ordinations to the Priesthood

pictured: Kevin Fields, Oscar Astigarraga, Andrew Clyne – photo credit J. Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

Tomorrow, June 16, I will have the joy of ordaining the three newest priests for the Archdiocese – Father Oscar Astigarraga, Father Andrew Clyne and Father Kevin Fields – during a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This evening, people are gathering at the Basilica for a Eucharistic Holy Hour to offer prayerful thanksgiving to God for our newest priests and to ask the Lord to bless them in their future ministry.

Churches throughout the archdiocese have hosted Holy Hours in the weeks leading up to this day, and during the year students at our schools and members of our parishes have also been praying for our seminarians by name. This is a sign of how our family of faith is united in prayer with our current and future priests.

On his first Holy Thursday as our pontiff in 2013, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to “be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.” The power of God’s grace, he said, “comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others.”

By his example and his words, the Holy Father offers his own humble example to our new and veteran priests, whom he has encouraged to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.” Answering the call, they go out to encounter and accompany their people in all stages of life, in good times and bad, and welcome them home to the Church, sharing the joy of the Gospel and bringing them Christ’s love and mercy where they are.

How does this happen? Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the ordained minister is configured to Christ as priest and shepherd of his people. The priesthood and the Eucharist both began with Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper, and never is a priest more the presence and icon of Christ than when he stands at the altar to make present once again for us and our salvation the sacramental re-presentation of the death and resurrection of the Lord in the Eucharist.

As an image of Christ the High Priest, the priest also proclaims God’s word in season and out, whether convenient or inconvenient, to help people accept, understand and live the truth of the Gospel. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he extends Christ’s mercy and forgiveness, healing our wounded hearts.

The sacrament conferred on these new priests offers a reminder that ultimately, ordination is not just for the recipient – the priest – but is for God’s people. Through prayer and accompaniment, the priests and people walk together with Christ on a path to heaven, knowing they never walk alone.