SOUTH END -- Six men from different walks of life all came together at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross May 23 to consecrate their lives to the Church.
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley ordained Fathers Seán M. Maher and Huy H. Nguyen from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton; Fathers Frank D. Camp and David W. Gunter from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Father Israel J. Rodriguez from the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan House of Formation, and Father Shawn P. Carey from the St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif. as hundreds of family, friends, fellow seminarians, priests, bishops and religious witnessed the joyous event.
During his homily, the cardinal marveled at the diversity of this year’s ordinands: a widower, a deaf man, an Irish immigrant, a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Hispanic man and a Vietnamese man.
“A half a century ago in this cathedral, they would have been ordaining about 50 men to the priesthood, but those huge ordination classes did not begin to reflect the diversity, the catholicity of today’s class,” Cardinal O’Malley said.
“It’s truly a microcosm of the Church today,” he said.
The cardinal greeted each of the ordinands warmly, as well as their friends and families.
“Your prayers and support have enabled these men to respond courageously and generously to the call to serve Christ and his Church as Catholic priests,” he said.
“To understand the meaning of the Catholic priesthood we look to Jesus,” he said. “Our priests are part of that same mission, are part of that sending of Jesus.”
“There is a strong missionary element in the identity of the Catholic priest, sent to announce the glad tidings of God’s love,” said Cardinal O’Malley.
He then spoke of the need to “go in search of those who have strayed, those who are lost, those who have become alienated from the Church or are on the periphery.”
“The Church exists to evangelize,” he stressed. “To preach the word of God is to give people dignity and security, meaning and consolation...The message that we preach is an invitation to come home, to live our lives in friendship with God and in the community with Christ’s family -- the Church.”
Calling our society “post-Christian,” the cardinal noted that “the most necessary thing is to help people to find faith, to discover Christ,” but that moral preaching and moralizing “is not enough.”
“What is needed is a Kerygmatic type of preaching that goes right to the heart of the message, proclaiming the Paschal mystery of Christ,” he stated.
The cardinal then spoke of the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation, noting that “one of the greatest joys of the priesthood is to be able to tell people of God’s abundant and inexhaustible mercy.”
“The authority to forgive sins is the Easter gift that Jesus gives to his Church,” the cardinal said, underscoring that “to be able to forgive sin, we must help people find the path of repentance.” he said.
“We must help people to realize how much our God lives us and wants to forgive us, but we must first respond to the call to conversion and repentance,” he continued. “Nowhere is the priest more a messenger of joy than when he says ‘Go in peace. Your sins are forgiven.’”
He stressed that in order to be good confessors, “we must first be good penitents.”
Cardinal O’Malley concluded his homily speaking of the importance of celebrating the Eucharist.
“In the Eucharist we are joined to Christ and to other communities,” he said. “A priest is not a lone ranger, as the liturgy reminds us.”
“When the priest pronounces the words, ‘This is my body,’ he speaks ‘in persona Christi,’ in the person of Christ. It is a call to dedicate our very selves, our very existence to God.”
The cardinal acknowledged that occasionally a priest’s life is filled with challenges, but then stressed that “a priest’s life swims in grace.”
“With Jesus’ help, each of you will become a good shepherd, willing if necessary to lay down your life for the flock,” he said.
“Today as you are anointed with the oil of gladness, may Mary the mother of the Divine Shepherd accompany you and help you to be transformed by God’s grace,” he concluded. “Only in this way is it possible to be an icon of the good shepherd and a messenger of his joy.”
Following the homily, each candidate approached the cardinal seated before the altar and promised obedience to Cardinal O’Malley and his successors.
The Litany of the Saints was then sung by the choir and assembly, as the six men lay prostrate in front of the altar as a sign of humility.
The cardinal then prayed silently over the ordinands as he laid his hands upon their heads. All the priests in the assembly were then invited to do the same.