Archbishop Gregory Ordains Ten Men to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a liturgical rite that can be traced back to the Apostles, ten men were ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church today by Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. More than 175 priests and 3,500 faithful which included family and friends of the ten ordinandi filled the upper church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Mass of Ordination to the Priesthood.
In his homily, Archbishop Gregory cited the second reading (1 Peter 5:1-4) that emphasizes the charge of the priests to give God’s flock, “a shepherd’s care.” We can never forget that we serve God’s flock, he said. “The dignity of God’s people remains undeniable because all of us in fact belong to the Lord. Those of us who are privileged to shepherd the people of God must always treat them with reverence and respect because they are His.” He continued, “Every dimension of our pastoral service must seek to draw the Lord’s flock closer to Him. And all those whom the Church calls to the office pastor are to model their lives after the life of the Good Shepherd Himself.”
The image of the Good Shepherd is a comforting icon for the Church, continued the archbishop. “It captures Jesus’ tenderness, His vigilance, His compassion, His generosity. The image of the Good Shepherd transcends time and environment. It speaks to the heart of rural resident, urbanite, and small town person alike. The image of the Good Shepherd is very comforting for this assembly gathered in prayer on this June morning in Washington. God’s people are gathered here in joy this morning because these ten men are being invited to begin their priestly ministry in imitation of the Good Shepherd.”
He instructed the ordinandi: “…be men who zealously preach a word of freedom to those who are held prisoners because of their fears, their sins, and their human weaknesses. Be men who tenderly heal the brokenhearted. Your service to people is to be much more than mere social activism. It must be grounded in faith. You must heal the brokenness that is found hidden in the human spirit and that can only be remedied by Christ’s touch. You must release people from their sins, by inviting them to have confidence in God’s mercy and then announce those words of healing that are both sacramental and spoken with the authority of the Church.”
He called on them to be pastors in the image of the Good Shepherd, and to take their sacramental ministry very seriously. “As you baptize, forgive sins, anoint the sick, witness the marriage of couples, and commend God’s people in the funeral rites, always remember that you are engaged in a Mystery that is both human and divine,” he said, and encouraged them to never allow their liturgical service to become “routine or pedestrian.”
“Your lives as priests must be very much like that solitary grain of wheat in today’s gospel that falls to the ground and seemingly dies. But the transformation of the single grain of wheat into a harvest of life is made possible through God’s own power. Be men of transparent goodness, joy, integrity, honesty and warmth. By witnessing before the Church that your desire is to follow the example of Christ in this expression of selfless love and is in response to a divine calling that brings contentment to your heart, you will invite all the human family to see the true fruitfulness and dignity of celibacy,” he said.
As he concluded his homily, Archbishop Gregory said to the ordinandi, “Today, you and I enter into a new relationship of unity. Your promise of obedience and respect must be linked to my own sincere affection and personal care for you. As father and sons, as brothers, and hopefully as friends our union is intended to allow us to work together jointly for the building up of the Body of Christ in the Archdiocese of Washington. May we work closely together in the months and years ahead so that the Lord’s flock will be served as He would have us care for them.”
After making a promise of obedience to Archbishop Gregory and his successors, the ten 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, as well as saints who hold a personal significance to the individual ordinandi.
Then, in a gesture of apostolic origin, Archbishop Gregory 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 concelebrating priests also laid hands on the heads of the new priests.
The ten new priests were then clothed with the stole and chasuble, the vestments of the priestly office, and Archbishop Gregory anointed their hands with Sacred Chrism. After receiving the offertory gifts from family members of the new priests, the archbishop 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 ten new priests of the Archdiocese of Washington joined their archbishop at the altar for the consecration.
As the Mass concluded, the new priests surrounded the archbishop and gave him their first blessing, and then to the congregation at the Mass, before processing 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.
This year’s priesthood ordination was Archbishop Gregory’s first as the recently-installed archbishop of Washington. He was named by Pope Francis to be the seventh archbishop of Washington on April 4, 2019, and installed on May 21, 2019.