Pre-ordination evening a time of prayer, fun, friends and family
April 18, 2019
A gathering the night before the June 2 ordination of three men to the priesthood included Archbishop George J. Lucas and close friends and family of the seminarians to be ordained. It was something like a groom’s dinner before a wedding.
It began with vespers and a blessing of their priestly chalices. After a meal sponsored by the Serra Club of West Omaha, attendees told stories of humor and encouragement for then-transitional Deacons Taylor Leffler, Patrick Moser and Padraic Stack.
“The weekend we celebrate ordination and (a priest’s) first Mass is a special time for all of us, perhaps especially for priests,” Archbishop Lucas shared with the congregation of about 130 people during vespers at St. John Vianney Church in Omaha. “It’s like a married couple attending a wedding.”
This weekend was particularly special for him, the archbishop said. His first Mass was at his home parish in St. Louis, the Curé of Ars Parish, named for the same patron saint of the place where vespers was being celebrated that evening, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests. And the archbishop’s first assignment as a priest was at St. Justin the Martyr Parish, also in St. Louis, whose feast day is June 1, also noted during vespers.
“(St. John Vianney’s) proof that you can be a priest and a saint,” the archbishop said, adding with a smile, “you might be disqualified when you become a bishop.”
Deacon Leffler said he was grateful to have his family, several seminarian friends and priests at the dinner. He was excited about his ordination the next day, he said, but also calm.
“I am just with the Lord, in my heart,” he said.
Deacon Moser said he was still trying to wrap his mind around the many gifts God had given him – particularly the gift of the priesthood. And Deacon Stack said he was excited, “kind of ready to just get going. It’s impossible to comprehend in its entirety. It’s humbling to know I am caught up in it.”
Retired Father James Kramper, whose assignments included pastor of St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater, Deacon Moser’s home parish, said he is celebrating his 45th anniversary as a priest, and he has never missed an ordination.
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything,” he said. “It’s a chance to renew and get to know the newest priests.”
The dinner itself is a tradition dating back about 25 years. After the meal, Father Andrew Roza, vocations director for the archdiocese, opened the floor for comments.
One of Deacon Moser’s sisters, Jen Moser of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, talked about Deacon Moser visiting home last summer and accompanying her to a morning Mass. The priest couldn’t make it to the church, however, and after checking with him by telephone, Deacon Moser conducted a Communion service.
The Gospel that day was the story of Jesus not being accepted as a prophet in his own town and being chased to the edge of a cliff before escaping.
After reading the Gospel, Deacon Moser sat down next to his sister and quietly said: “Hopefully, today’s Gospel is not fulfilled in your hearing.”
“It’s a blessing to have him as a sibling and a priest,” Jen Moser said.
And Father Scott Schilmoeller, ordained last year and now associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk, had a word of caution for the three transitional deacons.
“It’s a learning curve, heading into the priesthood,” he said. “Don’t get ahead of what the Lord is doing. It’s fast, there’s an intensity to it. Just step back … the Lord will meet you where you are.”
Archbishop Emeritus Elden Francis Curtiss, who led a prayer before the meal, said it was a special evening.
“It’s a joy to me at my stage in life to see these young people come into the priesthood. It speaks to the vitality of the church.”
Deacon Stack’s father, James Stack, said it was great to see his son so happy. He had been concerned his son might be lonely as a priest. But after watching seminarians, priests and others provide support, he said, “I don’t see that, and it’s nice to know.”
Archbishop Lucas and James Stack also noted the hard work the Serrans put into the dinner and how nice it was to relax and visit and not have the transitional deacons’ families concerned about cooking a meal.
“We’re very grateful to the Serra Club,” Stack said of his family. “This is very generous.”