Cardinal ordains 11 new Boston priests

Related Photo Gallery

BOSTON -- To Father David Joanis, it was though the day would never come.

Father Joanis felt called to the priesthood since he was a little boy growing up in Franklin. He told The Pilot that if he could go back in time and tell his younger self that he would become a priest someday, "little would he know the journey that would happen in between, and all the little gifts that God would give me."

"The grace to serve his people in ways that are deeper than I could ever understand," Father Joanis added. "The joys of the ministerial life, the joys of seminary life, all the friends and parishioners who have come to be part of my journey along the way."

After four years in Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence and another four years at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, May 25 marked the day that he achieved his lifelong dream. He and 10 other men were ordained as the Archdiocese of Boston's newest priests in a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at a packed Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The 11 new priests concelebrated the Mass with the cardinal.

"I've dreamt about my first consecration since I was a little boy," Father Joanis said, "and being up there and actually doing it the first time was indescribable."

The other men to be ordained to the priesthood on May 25 were: Father Giovanni Felipe Argote Infante, 35, of Valledupar, Colombia; Father Marcelo Gabriel Ferrari Melo, 28, of Monterrey, Mexico; Father Gabriel Malachi Hanley, 29, of Framingham; Father Matthew James Harrington, 28, of Beverly; Father Christopher Jake Letizia, 32, of Natick; Father Barry Thomas Mongeon, 63, of Warren; Father John Tanyi Nquah Lebui, 39, of Tiko, Cameroon; Father David Genaro Pineda, 28, of La Reina, El Salvador; Father Peter Hung Viet Tran of Vietnam; and Father Jeremy Royale Wagner, 32, of Hartford, Connecticut.

Father Argote and Father Hanley were formed at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chestnut Hill; Father Mongeon and Father Tanyi were formed at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston; and the rest of the newly-ordained priests were formed at St. John's Seminary in Brighton.

The Mass began, as all ordinations do, with a procession of hundreds of priests, deacons, and religious into the cathedral, with Cardinal O'Malley and his auxiliary bishops at the rear.

The diverse heritages of the men being ordained were on full display throughout the Mass, with music in Spanish and Vietnamese. The Archdiocese of Boston's Cameroonian community celebrated their culture in a procession to present the Book of Gospels to the cardinal. Women wearing billowing blue and white skirts sang and danced in the cathedral's center aisle, clearing the book's path with brushes traditionally used to make way for Cameroonian royalty. As the women processed down the aisle, Cameroonian musicians in colorful garb sang and played traditional instruments. The Cameroonian music and chanting seamlessly transitioned into the Gospel acclamation performed on the cathedral organ and sung by the cathedral choir.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley acknowledged the diversity of the assembly and welcomed bishops from El Salvador, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam who had come for the ordination. The cardinal gave greetings in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese before noting that the time of presbyteral ordination is also the time for high school and college graduations.

"Some people might mistake our celebration today for some sort of graduation," the cardinal said. "There are similarities. These men have finished their course studies and are about to be launched. The ordination is a commencement, a huge new beginning in their lives. They will not be earning a big salary, but they won't have a $100,000 student loan to pay off, either."

The cardinal said that, like a graduation, the ordination was a family celebration. However, that celebration was not only for the families of the new priests, but for the entire "Catholic family."

"These men are going to have a very important role in the pastoral life of our Catholic family," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley explained that the priesthood is not a job or career, but the result of answering a call to be "a father and a shepherd in Christ's family, the church." This requires priests to find the "moments of grace" in a life that can be difficult and monotonous. Like biological fathers in their children's lives, the cardinal said, priests must be present as spiritual fathers in their parishioners' lives. This, he said, is why priests remain celibate. That way, they can remain "available for all of those who need a father."

"Everyone has a right to expect our attention, our solicitude, our kindness," the cardinal said. "We belong to others the way that natural fathers belong to their children. It's not always easy."

He pointed to the parable of the Good Shepherd as an example for priests to follow, focusing their attention on the most troubled members of their flock.

"We must have a privileged place in our hearts for those who especially need us," he said, "for those who are sick, suffering, and low. Like Jesus, we must learn to look with love for those who are outcasts, strangers, and sinners."

He called on the newly ordained to live in "priestly poverty" and humility, recognizing their submission to God and the importance of their fellow man over material comforts. He encouraged them to live lives of prayer and eucharistic adoration, learning from Christ's presence without fear of taking up his cross. He told them to pray for one another and help their fellow priests in times of crisis.

"Our call is to a life of generosity and sacrifice," he said, "to turn the other cheek, to give the tunic along with the cloak, to walk the extra mile. To be good fathers, we must be good sons."

The Rite of Ordination began with the presentation of the priests to Cardinal O'Malley. The priests announced their willingness to enter the priesthood, the cardinal elected them, and the assembly loudly applauded to show its approval. The presentation of the candidates was followed by the cardinal's homily. After the homily, the priests promised that they would be faithful and dutiful priests, obedient to God, Cardinal O'Malley, and his successors. As the priests lay prostrate before the altar in a show of humility, the assembly prayed the Litany of Supplication, asking the saints' intercession for Boston's new priests.

"That was surreal," Father Letizia told The Pilot after Mass. "Definitely a Holy Spirit moment."

Cardinal O'Malley then laid his hands on the priests, and all of the priests present at the ordination did the same. The cardinal prayed the Prayer of Ordination and the priests were vested with stoles and chasubles. Cardinal O'Malley anointed the priests' hands with oil and presented them with the paten of bread and the chalice of wine, the symbols of their priestly ministry. The newly-ordained priests then received the Kiss of Peace from the cardinal and his auxiliary bishops.

After Mass, the new priests, surrounded by friends, family, and admirers, gave blessings and posed for countless photos. Fifty of Father Letizia's relatives came to celebrate his ordination.

"It's surreal right now," Father Letizia said. "I'm very happy. It hasn't hit me yet, but it feels good, that's all I can say."