Amid Twin Cities turmoil, new priests told they were ordained ‘for a time such as this’

| May 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

Priests wear masks as they bless the newly-ordained: Father Michael Becker, left, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Father David Blume, vocation director for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Father John Ubel, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

That the world needs good shepherds “is clearer now more than ever,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda told seven men at their ordination Mass May 30. “Turn on the television. Look on the first page of our newspapers. You’ll see that.”

In his homily at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Archbishop Hebda encouraged the ordinands to heed Jesus’ instruction to minister well to people’s needs, telling them that God has called them to begin ministry during this particular time in the Twin Cities and world.

In his plan for the Church, Jesus established the priesthood so men could stand in his place and shepherd his flock, “feeding them the Eucharist and sound doctrine, helping them to hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and tending to their needs with the sacraments,” Archbishop Hebda said.

“In general, leading them as Jesus led the disciples — even with a towel and a wash basin,” he continued. “It’s all, brothers, because Jesus loves his Church, because Jesus loves his flock, because Jesus loves all of humanity, his brothers and sisters.”

Archbishop Hebda ordained to the priesthood Father Austin Barnes, Father Clayton Forner, Father Nathan Hastings, Father Paul Hedman and Father Tim Tran for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Father Cesar Valencia Martinez and Father Yamato Icochea for the religious community Pro Ecclesia Sancta, which serves St. Mark in St. Paul and several Catholic schools.

The ordination Mass took place the morning after four consecutive nights of rioting in the Twin Cities following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died pleading for breath after a Minneapolis police officer arrested him and pinned him for minutes by kneeling on his neck. The officer was arrested May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Floyd’s death has inspired protests and rioting in major cities across the United States.

The ordination also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed almost 1,000 Minnesotans and upended the lives of people around the world.

Deacon Paul Hedman, right, pledges obedience to Archbishop Bernard Hebda, left, during the ordination Mass. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

“We live in a world that needs the good news Jesus brings to the afflicted, a world that needs healing for the broken-hearted, a world that needs to be comforted as it mourns, a world that longs for the oil of gladness, a world that needs a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit,” Archbishop Hebda said.

“I suspect that is true of the world in every age, but that’s certainly true of those of you who are called to serve as priests beginning today,” he said.

But current events should not make the new priests nervous, he told them, because they are not entering this ministry alone.

“We always know we can count on Jesus who continues to have such great love for his flock, who works through his priests,” he said.

At the beginning of the homily, Archbishop Hebda noted that the ordinands had chosen the readings, revealing their “rich understanding of the priesthood.” The Gospel reading from John 21 is one of his favorites, he said. “The setting is idyllic, certainly for a Minnesotan. To think about being on the shore of a lake, and Jesus had just cooked them breakfast.”

What’s significant about the Gospel reading, he said, is that it’s in the last chapter of John.

Father Clayton Forner gives Communion to members of his family during the ordination Mass. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

“There is always something telling about going-away dialogues,” he said. “With my mom, it’s almost like a litany for me and my siblings: ‘Brush your teeth, change your underwear, remember that the Blessed Mother sees even what I do not see, and remember that I love you.’ That’s was what we heard when we went to camp, that is what we would hear when we went off to college, that’s what I heard when I went off to seminary, that’s even what I heard as an adult when I left to go work at the Vatican.

“The script didn’t vary very much,” he continued. “What stuck were the last things mom said: ‘I love you.’”

The Gospel offered “that same type of final dialogue,” Archbishop Hebda said. The intimate exchange between Jesus and Simon Peter — “Simon, do you love me? “Yes Lord.” “Then feed my sheep” — has meaning beyond the meeting at the shore, he said. There are “two hinges” at play in the passage: love for Jesus and “feeding his flock.”

Those “hinges” are relevant for all people called to ministry, especially priests, he said. “The way that we can show our deep, unconditional love for him, the way we can answer the question that the Lord poses to Simon Peter, is by feeding his lambs and sheep, tending to their needs.”

Each of the three times Jesus questioned Peter, he charged him to feed his flock, from the little lambs to the most mature sheep, he said.

Father Victor Valencia, right, and the other six ordinands maintain social distance during the ordination Mass. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

“Jesus loves you, my brothers, to the moon and back. But never forget his intense love for his flock — all of them. And he’s calling you today because of that love for his flock.”

The words from the Mass’ first reading from Isaiah summarize well Jesus’ vision for the priesthood, as Jesus himself had proclaimed it from the synagogue as he began his public ministry, Archbishop Hebda said.

“If there had been elevators in first-century Nazareth, Isaiah 61 would have been Jesus’ elevator speech,” he said. “It captured the core of his shepherding: A ministry anointed by the Spirit, a ministry aimed at bringing good news to the poor and the afflicted, a ministry that would bring liberation.”

Archbishop Hebda encouraged the new priests to continue to cultivate their relationship with Jesus “and the rest will fall in place.”

The men should also feel supported by the church, their families and the fraternity of fellow clergy.

From left, newly-ordained Fathers Clayton Forner, Austin Barnes, Yamato Icochea, Tim Tran and Paul Hedman walk behind the Cathedral sanctuary after the ordination Mass May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

“For some reason, brothers, the Lord has called you at this time – ‘for a time such as this,’” he said, quoting from the book of Esther. “He’s raised you up at this providential time. It’s a sure sign of his great love for you, but also for his flock. Feed his sheep. Tend his sheep. And always remember how much he loves them. May that love be the hermeneutic for your ministry.”

The Mass was among the first the Cathedral had hosted since public worship resumed after Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19-related stay-at-home order expired May 18. For social distancing purposes, the congregation sat scattered throughout the cathedral. In accordance with Walz’s executive order around public worship, about 250 people attended — far fewer than would typically attend the annual priesthood ordination Mass.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the new priests did not offer individual blessings to people following the Mass, as is the usual custom.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Local News