“Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord!” With this reference to Psalm 89, Bishop Caggiano began his homily for the Mass last Saturday (5/20) at which he ordained six new priests for the Diocese of Bridgeport. The Bishop remarked that such an occasion should evoke songs of praise and thanksgiving from the hearts of the faithful. For, by the mystery of the workings of grace, these men had responded to the Lord’s gentle invitation to lay down their lives so that you and I might have life in Christ Jesus. He told the six men that there is only one proper response to the manifold challenges that we face both outside and within the Church, and that is the pursuit of radical, personal holiness. As priests of Jesus Christ, they were to be witnesses to the power of God’s grace and shepherds who would guide the flock to sanctity.
The Bishop noted that the ordination Mass was being celebrated on the feast day of St. Bernardino of Siena, a 15th century member of the Franciscan Order and the greatest preacher of his day. It was a time of moral corruption in the Church, which the Bishop described as having become “lax in its worship and ways.” In response, St. Bernardino preached the power of the Holy Name of Jesus. The Franciscan saint knew that it is in Christ alone that we receive the mercy of God, and in Him alone do we have life and eternal salvation. Thus, the Bishop charged the six men to “go forth, carrying His Name to others.”
It was a homily befitting the occasion, and a reminder to the priests in attendance of the remarkable life that we are called to in service of Our Lord and His Church. To have six men ordained was a powerful sign of hope, but also of God’s generosity. No man has a right to the priesthood; no man deserves the privilege of priestly ordination. Likewise, no diocese has a right to priests. They are gifts to us, gifts of men who have made themselves gifts to the Lord, who gives them to us that we might have life in Him. One of the things I hope for our parish is that we will provide the Church with priests and religious. Within the past decade, one daughter of our parish, Lauren Janik, has entered religious life as a member of the Sisters of Life, and now is called Sr. Catherine Joy. As far as I know, the last priest ordained from St. Cecilia was Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick. The last priest ordained from St. Gabriel was Fr. Greg Mecca. Those ordinations took place at least thirty years ago. Such a dry spell, at least for priestly vocations, might make us think that God just isn’t calling young people from our parish to these beautiful states of life. But that would be to doubt God’s goodness when we really should be questioning our own generosity. God is good and He is generous. In His Name, may we respond in kind – with ourselves and with our families.