Some theologians debate the actual moment of ordination within the ritual itself. Some say it takes place when the bishop lays his hands on the head of the ordinand. Others believe that the moment of ordination occurs when the ordaining bishop completes the prayer of consecration. Still others say the question is irrelevant, since the rite is seen and celebrated seamlessly. At the end, a change has occurred, and the ordained person rises up, a new creation.
Fr. James Smith, C.PP.S., and Deacon Matthew Keller, C.PP.S., were ordained on July 8, 2017, by Bishop Joseph Charron, C.PP.S., at St. Henry Church in St. Henry, Ohio, where Fr. Smith had spent the previous year as a deacon. It was, noted the pastor, Fr. Tom Hemm, C.PP.S., the first ordination to be celebrated in the historic church.
During the Mass, family and friends, Missionaries and Companions, sisters and supportive parishioners signified their consent with a warm round of applause when the bishop asked the people of God if the two were worthy to serve. That was a significant moment, Bishop Charron said in his homily. “We as a gathered Church say to you, ‘Bishop, ordain these men,’” he said. “It’s so wonderful to realize that it’s the Church who calls you. As Jesus said, ‘You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.’”
Both had been through years of formation and education, preparing for their new life. The journey was represented in the ceremony, said Fr. Smith, who first had to discover the Roman Catholic Church before he discovered his vocation.
“It meant a lot to me to have as part of the celebration people who have been significant throughout my journey in this vocation: a friend from college who was a part of the RCIA team when I came into the Church was the lector, and also was the lector at the Mass when I was confirmed; two former students who were confirmed in the fall of 2016 in the last confirmation class I taught in Chicago brought forward the chalice and paten; a C.PP.S. sister and an ASC sister brought forward the gifts, representing the richness of Precious Blood spirituality and ministry they continue to teach me; my best friend and his wife brought forward the chasuble and stole as a gift they were giving me, on top of the gift of their friendship and support; and Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., and Fr. Joe Bathke, C.PP.S., vested me in all they have taught me in formation on Precious Blood spirituality and community.”
For Deacon Keller, the moment of being called forward out of the assembly for ordination underscored that his vocation is not just a private matter between him and God.
“Often we speak of vocations to priesthood and religious life as being something that an individual chooses or something that God has chosen,” he said. “However, this moment in the ordination liturgy was about responding to God’s call. At the same time, it was the moment of being chosen by the people to serve the community as deacon. To me, the call of God and the call of the people came together at that moment to say that ‘we choose this man to be a deacon.’”
Beyond the ordination Mass, it was a weekend of revelations for both Fr. Smith, the son of Ken and Gale Smith of Pekin, Ind., and Deacon Keller, the son of Paul and Carol Keller of Maria Stein, Ohio. They went through the hustle and bustle of the preparations in the days leading up to the ordination, working with their brother Missionaries and the parish to be sure everything was ready. They were attentive during Friday’s Evening Prayer at the church, where Sr. Joyce Lehman, C.PP.S., delivered the reflection.
Sr. Joyce said that at their ordination, they would “be missioned as one, who, like Christ, is to be of service to all God’s people, not just Catholics. They will be invited, as Pope Francis has demonstrated, to kneel at the feet of the least among us and in his service offer the Good News of God’s unconditional love for each person.”
And now the two continue their lives as Missionaries. Deacon Keller, who was raised in a Precious Blood parish, is now serving in Dayton’s Region Seven parishes, St. Joseph, Holy Trinity and Emmanuel.
Fr. Smith, who first met the C.PP.S. when he was a student at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., knows that he’ll have the support of the Community as he learns how to be a priest, as he has throughout his discernment and formation.
During the ordination, he said, he felt that support when the Missionaries laid hands on him.
“The sheer gift of the laying on of hands from my brothers in the Precious Blood community and the gentleness and beauty of the prayer of consecration from Bishop Joe Charron highlights, I think, the unique charism that is being a Missionary of the Precious Blood and priest,” he said.
“Precious Blood priests and brothers live out this charism in various ministries of parishes, chaplaincy, education, and other ministries, especially preaching the Word. However, it’s the way these priests and brothers live their lives that best preaches reconciliation and renewal in the Church and the world.”
Article provided by Jean Giesige. Photos provided by Rev. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S. and Jean Giesige.