Archbishop Lucas ordains six to priesthood: ‘Impart mercy’
Ordaining six men to the priesthood in the Year of Mercy, Archbishop George J. Lucas urged them to impart Jesus’ mercy – in word, sacrament, action and attitude.
Through ministries including preaching, celebrating Mass and the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, priests can share the mercy of God with others, the archbishop said in his homily June 4 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.
"Our heavenly Father communicates mercy most profoundly – most personally – in his son, Jesus," the archbishop said. "Your own communication now – in word and sacrament, in action and in attitude – must always impart mercy, must always bring Jesus to others."
Addressing those to be ordained by their first names – Deacons Marcus Knecht, Tobias Letak, Rafael Majano, Patrick Nields, Eliot Schwer and Joseph Sund – the archbishop noted that "each heard the invitation of the Lord. They have recognized his voice and they have responded in faith, with generous hearts."
It was the largest class of men to be ordained priests in the Archdiocese of Omaha since 2002. Family, friends and supporters packed the pews and filled the side aisles.
Two pews were set aside for officers from the Omaha Police Department who came to support Deacon Nields, who was 2 years old when his father, Officer Paul Nields, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1974.
"Family needs to support each other," said Officer Ruteena Alcantara, "and Patrick is still part our OPD family."
After the ordination, Father Nields said their presence was encouraging.
"It shows the goodness of people," he said.
Father Nields, as well as Fathers Sund and Letak, particularly noted the support of more than 100 priests who came from across the archdiocese, laying their hands upon them in prayer during the ceremony.
"The power of prayer and the Holy Spirit was very strong," Father Sund said.
Father Letak said, "It was a beautiful moment to reflect on the priesthood and this new gift I have received. And receiving the prayer of priests who have been serving for a long time. Receiving their gift of wisdom, receiving their blessing."
Father Schwer said lying prostrate at the altar, giving his life to the Lord, was particularly meaningful. "The complete self-giving, asking the Father to take me, and entrusting myself to him."
Father Majano noted that same moment of blessing, as well as his gratitude for his family’s support and that of many well-wishers from Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha, St. Michael Parish in South Sioux City and other places he has been involved in ministry.
And Father Knecht said he was grateful for the archbishop’s generous use of chrism in the anointing of his hands, signifying the Holy Spirit making fruitful the ministry of priests.
"It was a symbol of God’s generosity in his choosing to anoint me, and the graces that come from the anointing," Father Knecht said.
Also in his homily, Archbishop Lucas noted that in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has stressed that all are sinners – priests, too – who much like the prodigal son in Christ’s parable can rejoice, repentant and forgiven, at the Father’s banquet.
"Many times in days to come, in a quieter setting, you will enter the confessional and put on the purple stole," the archbishop said. "I hope that as you take that sign of your priestly office you will get a little whiff of the pigsty, where your own willfulness may have landed you in the past. That memory of mercy received will help you be a better confessor – a true instrument of mercy. Penitents will sense that you are on their side – not on the side of sin, but one with the sinner," he said.
"Beginning today, people twice your age will call you ‘father,’" the archbishop said. "Be a merciful father, a true son of the Father who gives you such a place of honor in his house."