Spirited applause filled SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral Saturday when Bishop Thomas Olmsted said he was deeply grateful “to you families who today have committed your sons to be ordained priests.”
Family members who filled the front three rows beamed with pride.
“But above all, I am grateful to the six men who have said yes to God and are giving their lives now to the service of God’s people,” said the leader of a half-million registered Catholics in central and northern Arizona, from which begetting new priests is formidable. Recruiting, training and ordaining clergy has been a struggle for Catholics here and worldwide, in large part because of celibacy requirements.
Nearly 1,300 people packed the Phoenix church to witness what hasn’t happened since 1994 — six men, at once, increasing the ranks of the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. This year’s count equals the combined total of ordinations in the four previous years, including three in 2003 and none in 2004. Two were ordained last year, and three are scheduled for 2008.
The 2 1/2-hour ceremony with a Mass and Eucharist was filled with traditional rituals, as the men, ages 29 to 49, answered “Yes” to five questions, lay face down in the middle aisle of the marble floor in humble supplication during prayer and went, one by one, before the bishop for a “laying on of hands.”
Four of the six priests count Mesa, Tempe and Scottsdale churches as their home parishes, and one has been assigned to a Mesa church.
Ireland-born Kilian McCaffrey, 40, has been a member of Blessed Sacrament in Scottsdale, and his first assignment is Queen of Peace Church in Mesa. Paul Sullivan, 30, a member of Church of the Resurrection in Tempe, has been assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale. Ernesto Reynoso, 36, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, will start his priestwork at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Phoenix. A member of St. Timothy’s Parish in Mesa, Eugene Florea, 30, starts out at SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
The others are Craig Friedley, 49, whose home church is St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix and who is headed to a Flagstaff parish; and John Muir, 29, of St. Theresa Parish in Phoenix, who will continue studies at an Illinois seminary.
A moving segment of the ordination came when almost 100 priests of the diocese took turns passing by each of the new priests, who were kneeling, and placing hands on each one’s head with a blessing.
At the end of the rites, all priests returned to embrace the sextet and welcome them into the priesthood.
“Do you promise respect and obedience to my confession?” Olmsted asked them, and told them that humility is essential for their ministries to be effective.
“There are times when the burden of needs and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged, but precisely, we are caught by the knowledge that in the end, we are only his instruments.”
The director of vocations for the diocese, the Rev. Don Kline, said the “spike” in new priests shows that “God has promised that he will always take care of the church. This is a sure sign of God’s love of his people.”