“Priesthood today calls you to the New Evangelization, which should bring forth a joyful witness and compassionate teaching that are the hallmarks of the pontificate of Pope Francis.”
June 17, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a liturgical rite that can be traced back to the Apostles, four men were ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church today by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. Approximately 2,000 people, including family, friends, and priests filled the upper church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the Mass of Ordination for Benjamín García, Robert Kilner, Jorge Ubau, and Andrew Wakefield.
This year’s priesthood ordination marks a special milestone in the Archdiocese of Washington because Fathers Garcia, Kilner, and Wakefield are the first three seminarians from the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary to be ordained to the priesthood. The seminary was established by Cardinal Wuerl in 2011.
Cardinal Wuerl began his homily by calling the ordination ritual “an invitation to enter into the spiritual reality of God’s saving presence with us. Thus we use the ritual, symbols and signs to help us encounter with our senses what we can really only experience with the eyes of faith.” Explaining that the ordination was a continuation of the sacred ministerial presence of Christ with his people, Cardinal Wuerl said that the supreme gift, sublime mystery and calling by God to the priesthood serves a sacred purpose, intended not for the priest, but for God’s people. “The priest is servant because he has a sacred mission to fulfill. We must see priesthood as sacred service. ‘The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served,’” he said.
He then reflected on what priestly service consists of, “These men, soon to be priests, are charged to continue what Jesus began. They will stand in the midst of the faith community as an icon of Christ. Thus, the priest, as image of Christ, proclaims the Word in season and out, whether convenient or inconvenient, in living continuity with the apostolic tradition. He celebrates the sacred mysteries, especially the sacrament of reconciliation and, above all else, the Eucharist. He shows a loving concern for those in need and manifests a shepherd’s care for the flock which priests are called to gather into one and lead to the Father.”
“Your priesthood immerses you in the challenges that are a part of our highly secular culture and an articulated antagonism towards the Gospel in some sectors of our society. Priesthood today calls you to the New Evangelization, which should bring forth a joyful witness and compassionate teaching that are the hallmarks of the pontificate of Pope Francis. You will be joining brother priests already deeply engaged in the effort to go out, engage and accompany all of those who should be with us,” Cardinal Wuerl continued.
He called on the men to be guided in their ministry of service by the joy of the Gospel, as the Holy Father continually reminds us to be radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross. “Your priestly ministry must also draw its inspiration from the joy of love. Our Holy Father’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is a reminder of how great is God’s love for us and how we can not only bask in that love but share it with others.”
As he concluded his homily, the cardinal called on the men being ordained to keep in their hearts the example and words of Pope Francis. “Throughout his Petrine ministry, again and again, you and I have heard what are now some very familiar words: go out, accompany, invite, welcome, embrace, create a culture of encounter, touch the suffering flesh of Christ in others, take on the smell of the sheep, manifest mercy and exude joy.” He encouraged them not to forget their ordination day, “Always hold deep in your heart the realization that what you are asked to do at the service of Christ’s Church is truly God’s call. Always be as generous with your response to the needs of God’s people and the direction of your Bishop as you are this morning in your response to God’s call.”
After making a promise of obedience to Cardinal Wuerl and his successors, the four men lay prostrate before the altar, symbolizing their total giving of self, just as Jesus laid down his life to bring salvation to the world as the Litany of Saints was sung. The litany invokes the intercession of apostles and martyrs from the early Church as well as holy women and men of recent times, including Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II, Saint Junípero Serra, and Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
Then, in a gesture of apostolic origin, Cardinal Wuerl laid hands on each candidate’s head, the focal point of the ordination rite, and the essential act of ordination, as a sign that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon them and each is configured to Christ as Head of his Church. The 120 concelebrating priests from the archdiocese also laid hands on the heads of the new priests. “This transforming gift of grace parallels sacramentally what took place as Jesus stood in the Jordan and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him with the voice from Heaven announcing: ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear him,’” said the cardinal.
The four new priests were then clothed with the stole and chasuble, the vestments of the priestly office, and Cardinal Wuerl anointed their hands with Sacred Chrism. After receiving the offertory gifts from family members of the new priests, the cardinal handed the paten and chalice to the newly ordained and offered them the sign of peace, as did their new brother priests.
Moments later, the new priests joined their archbishop at the altar for the consecration. As the Mass concluded, the four new priests offered their first blessing to those at the Mass, and processed down the aisle to applause and cheers from a joyous crowd. Downstairs in designated chapels, hundreds lined up to receive a personal blessing from the new priests, including family members, friends and some of their brother priests.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.