For new priests, Mass attendees, ordination ‘a day of grace’

| June 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

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

Father Paul Hedman admits to tearing up before and during his ordination Mass. Afterward, it seemed he couldn’t smile broadly enough. “I can’t put my reaction into words,” he said. The closest was “wow.”

“It certainly took place under strange circumstances with the unrest and with the virus, but it was perfect,” he said.

That feeling was shared by the six others ordained priests alongside Father Paul Hedman, as well as the family and friends who joined them at the Cathedral of St. Paul for the 10 a.m. Mass May 30. But, with only about 250 people spread throughout the church’s vast interior for social distancing, as well as the face masks many of them wore, it was hard to miss that this was an ordination unlike any other.

“I’m … not going into ministry to a normal Church right now,” noted Father Hedman, whose home parish is St. Raphael in Crystal. “So much stuff is happening, and we’ll have to come up with creative ways to bring the Gospel to people. Even before the virus … we knew we’d be up for a challenge, and now even more so, and find how to bring Jesus to people. You got to be creative, inspired by God.”

The family and friends present for the Mass expressed confidence that the new priests are prepared for whatever faces them in ministry. And the uncertain times did nothing to diminish their joy.

Father Hedman’s parents, Mike and Sharon Hedman, said seeing their son ordained a priest stirred memories of him as a young boy.

“He showed signs at an early age that we had a special blessing,” Mike Hedman said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my son.”

Sharon Hedman remembers making “little priest vestments” for him when he expressed interest in becoming a priest.

“He still has those,” she said, “but he gave one to a little boy in our parish who is already showing interest in ‘church stuff.’”

Danielle Campos said that she felt great joy at the ordination of her brother, Father Clayton Forner. “I was so happy and proud to see him up there,” said Campos, a member of Guardian Angels in Chaska. “I feel like it was just right. He’s been working on this for a long time, and I feel it is very fitting for him.”

Campos said her brother has been thinking about priesthood since he was a little boy and started seminary studies right after high school. He brings “quite a few gifts” to his ministry, she said. Among them, she said, is happiness, which she expect to serve him and his flock well.

“He always brings happiness to the room,” she said, “and I think that’s a very good tool for evangelizing and spreading the faith.”

Jeanne McLeod of Holy Spirit Parish in St. Paul attended the Mass to witness the ordination of her nephew Father Austin Barnes. “I’m feeling proud and honored to be here,” she said.

Seeing him ordained was surreal, she said, because of how hard he worked during eight years of seminary studies and how long the family anticipated him becoming a priest.

“It’s so emotional for me because it’s finally happening,” she said.

Jon Yanta attended the ordination Mass to support Father Cesar Valencia Martinez and Father Yamato Icochea, two priests newly ordained for the religious community Pro Ecclesia Sancta. Yanta has gotten to know members of their community, including priests, brothers and sisters.

“I have a brother and a lot of friends who are priests, so it’s always beautiful to see new men become ordained and be evangelists of Jesus Christ and promoters of the great gift of the Gospel and the spirit of life,” he said. “Any time you have an opportunity to see that, and to witness that, is a great gift.”

Father Tim Tran called his ordination “just a big day of grace.” It brought tremendous peace, he said, and a whirlwind of emotions.

“I have a very big sense of calm in my heart and soul, and gratitude,” he said. “I am very grateful to God … for everything he’s done.”

Father Tran, whose home parish is St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien in Minneapolis, wished that everyone who impacted his life and led him to this point could be at his ordination, but he said he still brought them to the altar in his intentions.

“I pray that with his (Christ’s) grace, I can be his hands and feet,” he said.

Father Tran’s brother, Phat Tran, said it was difficult to describe his emotions. In the midst of everything going on — from the COVID-19 pandemic to the protests and riots related to the death of George Floyd — seeing someone willing to step up and say, “yes” is very emotional, he said.

Phat Tran said it takes a lot of courage to respond this way in such difficult times. “To say yes to that call … is very touching,” he said. “And in an age where every man is for himself, he decides to say, … ‘I am willing to take that next step and sacrifice my life for Christ, to serve others.’”

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Category: Featured, Ordinations