I had quite an experience with graduation and ordination activities this month, beginning with the graduation of twelve young men from our seminary college two weeks ago. But my experience also included the ordinations this past weekend of three new deacons on Friday night, eight new priests on Saturday, and the First Mass of one of the new priests on Sunday. It was a very exciting weekend, with everyone wowed by the remarkable fact of having twenty-three young men take these very significant steps in the life of the Church in the Diocese of Lincoln.
In his homily during the Ordination Mass on Saturday, Bishop James Conley cited some amazing statistics. Here is an excerpt from his homily:
“In 2005, at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that, ‘we were not created for an easy life, but for great things.’ The call to greatness is compelling. The eight men who will be ordained today are evidence of that. And this is not only true here in the diocese of Lincoln, but this is evident across our country. If all the men who are currently in theology, including these eight today, persevere to ordination, in the next four years, God willing, I will ordain 26 men to the priesthood. In that same time period, we will have four retirements for net gain of 22 priests. This is one of the reasons I have released two priests this year to serve outside the diocese in the important work of seminary formation and college campus missionary work. The total number of ordinations to the priesthood this year is up over 25% nationwide. The ordination class of 2015 will number 595, the highest number of ordinations to the priesthood in America since 1975 and 118 more ordinations than last year. Obviously, God is raising up young men and calling them to be priests of Jesus Christ, to face the new challenges of our hyper-secular age and proclaim a New Evangelization.”
The weekend made me almost giddy with excitement. You will pardon me if I admit that these things are where my thoughts are today. My prayer for today: Dear Lord, thank you so much for your gift of these men and all the men ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ this month across our nation. I pray for your divine guidance for them as they begin their priestly lives in your service. Amen.
The photograph is of the eight young men (dressed in white albs and the beige stoles draped over their left shoulders) as they await the beginning of the ceremony of their Ordination to the Priesthood outside the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln on Saturday.