Priests encouraged: Follow Shepherd
Vowing to commit their lives to God and his people, two men began their pastoral journey June 3 as they were ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop George J. Lucas.
About 800 family, friends, clergy and other well-wishers attended the ceremony at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.
Reflecting on his new life, Father Nicholas Mishek said he looked forward to "a whole new reality of living in and for the sacraments – saying Mass or absolving people in confession."
Father Scott Schilmoeller talked about the immediate impact of the day.
"When I woke up this morning," he said, "one of my first thoughts was, by the end of the day, I will likely hear a confession. It’s awe-inspiring that the Lord entrusts his grace and mercy on someone who needs grace and mercy to give that to others."
Archbishop Lucas also emphasized self-giving. Reflecting in his homily on the Gospel reading from the 10th chapter of St. John, he encouraged the soon-to-be priests to follow the model of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep.
"Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd. This revelation is a gift to all of us, and a particular gift, I hope, to the two men who are being ordained today."
The archbishop told them, "Be more than a teacher of the faith, more than someone who teaches people about Jesus. In other words, you become, in a way, the real presence of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
"You are sent as a shepherd, as a pastor, not as a hired hand or employee," he said. "Make it clear to your people they don’t have to do anything to earn your time and attention. And especially, be sure that the weak and the vulnerable know that they can approach you, because you have already tried to notice them, and reach out to them.
"Let your life and ministry be reflected there at the altar," he said. "Make the eucharistic presence of Jesus more believable. Let them see that you are united, day-by-day to Jesus on Calvary, and you are connected to him in a special way at the altar."
The archbishop also encouraged the men to make their ministry personal.
The parishes and people you are being sent to "have names and they have faces and they have histories," he said. "You are to lay down your lives for them. That’s not just a pious figure of speech. It means you have to love them in concrete ways. And then you have to let them know that you love them.
"Get to know your people as well as you can, and let them know you. They will want to receive you into their lives, into their homes. Let them know they have a place in your heart forever. Try to learn even more than you teach. Try to listen to your people even more than you speak to them."
The archbishop also encouraged them to "have concern for those who are not already in the sheepfold. Ask yourselves often, and encourage your people to ask, ‘Who is not here? Who seems to be missing?’ Then, go out to look for them. Go out to meet them."
"As you lay down your life for those entrusted to your care, Jesus will be seen and known in you," he said. "He will really be present to his flock in and through you."
Comments by Fathers Schilmoeller and Mishek before the ceremony seemed to anticipate the archbishop’s message.
"The Lord’s blessed me with an excitement and a peace, and the Lord is pouring himself out, and in return I’m sensing the call to be poured out as well," Father Schilmoeller said.
"All of this is a gift," Father Mishek said, … "that the Lord takes men like us, who are broken, but gives us his own flesh so that we can impart his grace to others. I’m awestruck and I’m humbled and grateful for this gift."