Shepherd's Voice

The priesthood: bringing ‘the light of the Gospel in every age and in every place

In the first of three pieces concerning vocations to the priesthood, Archbishop George J. Lucas shares his joy and gratitude for the upcoming ordination on June 4 of two men – Brett Jamrog and Minh Tran – as priests for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

 

Q. We have two seminarians, who are transitional deacons, to be ordained as priests of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Tell me about the importance of priestly vocations.

 This time of the year, we think about the importance of priestly vocations, because God willing, we have ordinations, which we do this year. We’re grateful for the two men who are presented for ordination to the priesthood. We know that as the Lord has established the Church to bring the light of the Gospel in every age and in every place, he has planned that there be a sacramental priesthood, an ordained priesthood, men who he himself calls and who the Church forms, and the Church recognizes that call.

 And then, when the men are ordained, we talk about them being configured to Jesus Christ. They become living sacraments of Jesus. They preach and provide the sacramental life of the Church and good pastoral care to our people so that the life of the risen Christ is experienced by people in our time, and for the future.

 

Q. Please share your thoughts on this year’s ordination.

 It’s great news. I’m grateful to the people of our archdiocese who are so supportive of vocations in our young people, encouraging them, praying for them. I’m grateful for the two men who I’ll have the privilege of ordaining, because they’re giving themselves to it completely in response to the invitation of the Lord.

 It’s a joyful time for our archdiocese. Ordaining new priests is one of the happiest things that I get to do as the archbishop, for a number of reasons. I love my own vocation and I’ll be ordained to the priesthood 47 years this spring. There are a lot of memories that are rolled up into this for me as I ordain these two young men.

Also, I get the chance to reflect prayerfully, which I’ve been doing already, thinking about all of the ways that they will be able to have a good and a powerful effect on people throughout their ministry. I’m thinking how, long after I’m gone, they’ll still be, by God’s grace, configured to Jesus in the priesthood and celebrating the sacraments, preaching the Gospel, and really caring for God’s people as Jesus himself would.

 

Q. What words of wisdom can you give to Deacon Jamrog and Deacon Tran?

 I’ll share some words of wisdom with them at their ordination, I’m sure, but I haven’t planned my homily completely yet. But here’s a start.

 One of the things that I remember after my own ordination I do share with new priests. There’s going to be a beautiful surprise as you begin your parish assignment and continue it over the next several years as a new priest, a surprising way that God’s people will help you understand what the Church needs from her priests. We don’t get to redefine the priesthood, and it can’t be anything we want. But our faithful people have an innate understanding, that I think is from the Holy Spirit, about what they desire their life in the Church to be, and what they hope to receive from their priests.

 They can’t be everything to everybody at every moment. That’s not the point. But there’s a lot of formation that goes on in the years that a man spends in the seminary, and so we believe that both of these men who will be ordained are ready to go. They’re well trained and well prepared, very good spiritual men, and educated in all the right ways. They’ve had good pastoral experience.

 But there’s nothing like actually carrying out priestly ministry and doing it in the context of a parish. They’re sent on a mission to a particular parish. They’re not just priests in a general sense, or priests-at-large, but they really will be attached to a parish and to a pastor who they will assist. And those people will help with the ongoing formation. I encourage them to think that’s really going to be enjoyable and filled with many graces.

 I think any of us, if we have sense, approach the beginning of a new way of life with some trepidation, wondering if we’re going to be good at it, and if we’ll do things right. And I’m confident in these two men. The Lord and the Church always have some surprises for us, and they’re good surprises. They’ll both know a lot more about the daily experience of being a priest a year from now than they know now.

 

Q. What excites you for our future seminarians?

Thanks be to God we have a good number of men who have applied for the seminary for the coming year. It’s obvious to everyone, I suppose, that we can’t have men be ordained to the priesthood if they don’t come to the seminary in the first place.

So, we’ve been working hard at this. And again, I’m grateful to our priests and people who I think are more and more on the lookout for young men in their parishes or in their families who exhibit qualities that we would like to see in a priest. They’re encouraging them to think about whether the Lord might be calling them. We have a number who are responding, and others who are in the process of discerning, that maybe are not ready to apply for the seminary but are considering it.

I really think that every young Catholic man should think about the possibility that he might be called to the priesthood. Not everyone is, of course, but we don’t want to miss anybody. And we know the Lord calls those who he himself desires to share in his priesthood. He makes some surprising choices from time to time. It’s good for every good Catholic man to think about and pray about it. Ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit, spend time in prayer, spend time at Mass, and before the Blessed Sacrament. If we put ourselves close to the Lord, then he’ll share his plan with us.

 

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I encourage all our people to pray for these two men who will be ordained to the priesthood. Pray that they’ll be open to God’s grace and be instruments of the Lord himself in many ways, in ways that will be joyful and fruitful for them and for the people that they serve. And I encourage us all to continue to pray that God will bless us in the future with the priests that he wants us to have, the priests that we need for our families and for our parishes.