A bagpipe’s distinctive skirl sounded the start of the 2011 ordination Mass May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, where five “young, eager men” — including a native of Scotland — became priests for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Archbishop John Nienstedt twice referred to these graduates of the St. Paul Seminary as young and eager before ordaining Fathers James Lannan, Jonathan Joseph Kelly, Cole Thomas Kracke, Nathan William LaLiberte and Anthony Joseph Martin O’Neill, the Scot.
Ordaining new priests makes for a happy day, the archbishop said. “As a bishop, there is nothing I do that is so awesome.”
He challenged the newly ordained to “speak with the mind of Christ, listen with the heart of Christ, and see with the eyes of Christ.”
The same yet different
Be servant leaders, Archbishop Nienstedt urged, and know that you are earthen vessels, human like the rest of us.
“Delegate, collaborate, share the burdens,” he said. “One of the great lessons of our time is that priests shouldn’t have to pastor the parish all by themselves,” and he urged the new priests to take advantage of the many talents of lay people.
He noted, though, that “priesthood is not just one of many ecclesial ministries” but unique.
“The priest stands with Christ as teacher, priest and shepherd.”
Be men of prayer — and of Mary
Priests musts have a disciplined prayer life and a friendship with Jesus Christ, the archbishop said, and he urged the newly ordained to follow the lead of the late and newly Blessed Pope John Paul II in his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“John Paul told us to take Mary into the interior of our priesthood, and especially in challenges to turn to Mary. The priest is called to obedience, celibacy and simplicity of lifestyle,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “Trust yourself and your mysterious vocation to her and you will always be close to Christ.”
Many owed gratitude
The archbishop thanked the new priests’ parents, family, parish priests and friends for supporting the men through the discernment and formation process.
“The calling to priesthood is a marvelous mix of nature and grace,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “Let me offer a word of heartfelt thanks to all of you who assisted in that process.”
All of the new priests entered the seminary during the episcopal tenure of former Archbishop Harry Flynn, who was present in the sanctuary for their ordination.
Archbishop Nienstedt extended a special note of gratitude to the archbishop-emeritus for “the influence you had on these men,” and a long applause sounded throughout the cathedral.
After the liturgy, the newly ordained were stationed in various chapels of the cathedral to offer their blessings to, first, their parents, then family, friends and well-wishers.
One for the Scots
The bagpiper’s tones were a musical deference to Glasgow-born Father O’Neill.
“He does Scotland great credit,” offered Stuart Hoarn, who took photographs as the new Father O’Neill offered his first blessing to his parents, Sean and Eilis, who traveled from Scotland for the ordination.
“He’s got a huge heart,” said Hoarn, former president of the Minnesota Coalition of Scottish Clans. “This man has heart and a generous spirit. He’ll bring a tenderness [to the priesthood], for such a big man.”
Father James Lannan’s mother, Maureen, said he didn’t give his parents any early clues he might be called to priesthood, but moments after he’d been ordained she thought his answering God’s call was “exciting, fabulous.”
His father Bob — brother of the late Father Patrick Lannan, a beloved St. Paul pastor — welled up with tears as he described with pride the path of life his son had chosen.
“What other vocation can you go into where you’re going to get the same grace, dignity, faith, hope, truth?” he said. “If it’s done right, it’s something that makes the church stronger.”
Joy all around
The new Father Jonathan Kelly has what it takes to make that kind of priest, according to friends Kelly and Nancy Leahy, who worked with him on retreats and extreme faith camps.
Asked why Father Kelly will make a good priest, Kelly Leahy answered in bursts: “Love. Total surrender. The Holy Spirit oozes out of him.”
Nancy added: “He connects with the kids. Our daughters got to know him, and they just adore him.”
The new Father Nathan LaLiberte stood out among the Class of 2011, and not just because he is a head taller. From the moment he stepped into the main aisle at the processional, he had a smile on his face that beamed.
His grandmother couldn’t help but notice.
“He seems to be so comfortable, smiling all the time,” said Delzetta Thomas,
The smiling Father Tony O’Neill understood the feeling.
“It feels really good,” he said as he blessed well-wishers. “It feels like I’ve been waiting a long time. God is good.”
About the Father’s business
The class of 2011 is the first ordination group that Father Robert Pish has had significant time to get to know in his post as vice rector of student affairs and dean of men at the St. Paul Seminary.
As celebrations at the cathedral wound down, Father Pish reflected on the men who had just joined him in the ranks of archdiocesan priests.
“One thing that seems amazing,” Father Pish said, “is the unique way God works in each of the men he calls to priesthood. No vocation is exactly the same, yet there is always this beautiful and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that is reflected in the business of what God calls every one of us to.
“Seeing this love of Christ reflected within the men of this ordination class, it reminds me they’re entering what the church is all about.”