Tears welled up in Allison Koop’s eyes as she reflected on what it was like to see her brother ordained a priest.
“The most joyful moment of the day was when I saw him receive his vestments, it brought tears of joy to my eyes,” Koop said of Father Evan Koop.
Allison Koop, who lives in Minneapolis, was among the crowd of friends, family members, priests and well-wishers who filled the Cathedral of St. Paul May 26 for the Mass during which Archbishop John Nienstedt ordained three men to the priesthood.
Along with Father Koop, the others who professed their vows to serve God, the Catholic Church and the people of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis were Father Ben Little and Father Nick VanDenBroeke.
Shepherding the flock
In his homily during the Mass, Archbishop Nienstedt urged the men as they started their priestly vocation to grow from a filial (friendship) relationship with Christ to an agape (union) relationship with Christ.
“Caring for the spiritual and sacramental needs of the faithful entrusted to your parish . . . will help you grow from the wholesome and satisfying friendship you now have into that deeply, sacrificing agape love, which Christ desired for Peter, which in fact he desires for you,” Archbishop Nienstedt said.
The Rite of Ordination began as the then-deacons came before Archbishop Nienstedt, who announced that they had been chosen for the order of priesthood. Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, rector of the St. Paul Seminary, presented the men and attested that they were prepared and approved for ordination. Each candidate told the bishop he came willingly and faithfully to the priesthood and then each man promised his obedience to the authority of the church.
The three men then prostrated themselves on the floor before the altar as the Litany of Saints was chanted.
Archbishop Nienstedt ordained each man by laying his hands on their heads and praying silently, invoking the Holy Spirit upon each. The many concelebrating priests who were in attendance then laid hands on the heads of the ordinands, signifying their sharing in one priesthood.
“I enjoyed the brotherhood of the priests, I had never seen that before,” said Lois Hidding, one of many attending from Father VanDenBroeke’s home parish, Guardian Angels in Chaska.
The newly ordained priests were vested by brother priests with the stole and chasuble — outward signs of the priestly office.
The three priests then once again knelt before the archbishop as he anointed their palms. Following the presentation of the gifts by family members, each man was presented with a paten and chalice. After the rite of ordination was complete, each of the priests concelebrating the Mass greeted the new priests with a sign of peace in the form of a warm embrace. They then joined Archbishop Nienstedt in celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist for the first time.
‘Couldn’t be more proud’
After Communion, the new priests gave their first blessings to the archbishop. The priests then dispersed to various areas in the cathedral, where they offered blessings to their families, friends and well-wishers.
In a touching moment, Father Little’s mother Donna Marie Little stood back and looked on with a gentle smile, as her son caressed the head of his sister Katie Little.
“A most joyous day, couldn’t be more proud,” Donna Little said.
Katie Little then said, “It felt it took forever to get here, but now we are so happy that it was finally today.”
Standing just to the left of Father VanDenBroeke, in front of the side chapel of St. Joseph, where a throng of people waited for his blessing, Julie VanDenBroeke expressed her happiness at being there for her son.
“It’s such a great gift for the priesthood and for my son,” VanDenBroeke said.
Julia Harrison was among a large group of parishioners from St. Rita in Cottage Grove, who came to the cathedral in support of Father Koop.
“Father Koop is the first priest from St. Rita’s, so it is an inspiration to me to see such dedication he has for the church,” Harrison said.
Cecilia Piche of St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony spoke fondly of Father Little, who she came to know while he was a deacon there for the summer
“Today was a culmination of many years of preparation, but as I saw him today, he had that ‘priestly glow’ about him that made me smile,” Piche said.