Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garden State = Ordination Country

Yet again, the nation's biggest bevy of new priests this Ordination Season belongs to the archdiocese of Newark, which welcomed welcomed 13 to the "Long Black Line" yesterday:
Ten of the men, ordained at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark by Archbishop John J . Myers, at a morning Mass in which they lay prostrate and were anointed with oil, were born in foreign countries. Three are from Colombia, two are from Nigeria, and one comes from each of the following nations: Italy, Ecuador, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Hungary.

Increasingly, Catholic priests are foreign-born. About a quarter of the new priests being ordained nationally this year in the Catholic Church are from other nations.

In New Jersey, an ethnically diverse state, several of the priests from abroad likely will be assigned to parishes where large numbers speak their native language.

"Approximately one-third of the Catholics in the (Newark) Archdiocese are foreign-born, and approximately 40 percent are Latino," said Monsignor Robert Wister, a church historian at Seton Hall University. "Just as the people have come from other countries, so a great number of seminarians have."

Several of the foreign-born priests grew up in the United States. Others took years of church-sponsored English classes while seminarians.

The four other Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey also are ordaining priests this month. Last week, the Camden Diocese ordained two. Yesterday, the Metuchen Diocese ordained three, and the Paterson Diocese seven. Next Saturday, the Trenton Diocese will ordain three.

The Paterson Diocese's seven make up the diocese's largest ordination class since 1978, according to its bishop, Arthur Serratelli. Six are from other countries: three from Poland, one from the Philippines, one from Israel, and one from Colombia.

"I think it's great," Serratelli said of his new priests' origins. "I've noticed in parishes that people consider American parishes, we have a great influx of Latinos. So there's an even greater need for more Latino priests who speak Spanish."...

If the estimates provided by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University are correct, this will be the third year in the last five that the Newark Archdiocese has had the highest number of men being ordained [in the nation]. It had 17 ordained in 2006, and 13 in 2007.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee might be awaiting its eleventh archbishop, but the 700,000-member church yesterday saw its largest crop since 1992:

Six seminarians were ordained priests before an overflow crowd of more than 1,500 who hugged, wept and shook the cathedral's colonnades with applause during the 2 1/2 -hour ceremony.

"We are so blessed by this great flock of new priests. We're seeing a new day in which parents are happy to see their sons choose to come to the priesthood," said Auxiliary Bishop William Callahan, who presided over the ordination....

For many in the cathedral, the group's size made the ordination a sensation.

"This year's ordination is really significant both in the number and the quality. There were years over the last 10 or 15 years when we had one, two, none," said Father Donald Hying, rector at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, 3257 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis. "I just see a dynamism and vitality going forward in these men who are willing to lay down their lives for God."

"I have been crying for two days with excitement. There are so many ordained at once," said Bernadette Igl of Elkhorn, Strand's aunt, as she greeted friends and wiped away more tears.

For the candidates, the ordination was the end of a journey that started with what they all termed their "great call" to the priesthood.

"This lifts us all up," Esch said. "It's a sense that the renewal of the priesthood that started with Archbishop Timothy Dolan goes on. It means the church is alive and strong. God is still calling to men, and I'm grateful to God for the great call."

There was a sense of healing, too. Brandl said the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic priesthood were an obstacle that he had overcome to be a priest.

"I had to put what some people did to give the church a black eye behind me," Brandl said. "I didn't want anything to come between me and my Lord."

During his homily at the ceremony, Callahan urged Catholics to begin "rejoicing in the gift of the priesthood and celebrate its integrity."

All was silence as the seminarians prostrated themselves before the altar. But after Callahan formally presented the new priests vested in stoles and chasubles - the symbols of office - the crowd stood and gave out with applause that resounded even outside the cathedral....

There are more to come, said Hying, who has seen a steady increase in enrollment at the seminary since the early 2000s, a mirroring of a national trend. He expects St. Francis' enrollment to hit 41 by this fall, its largest in two decades, and for 40 or more priests to be ordained over the next six years.

St. Francis, founded in 1845, is the state's only diocesan seminary. At its peak, it served about 500 students in high school, college and seminary programs.

Hying sees in this latest class a "tremendous desire to serve God's people in earnestness, and to be holy without being stuffy or pietistic."

But on Saturday, this group saw even more. O'Connell said: "This day is a blessing."

In his first class for the 2.5 million-member Gotham church, the Beer City's former archbishop ordained three earlier this month, while the 2 million member archdioceses of Chicago and Boston respectively welcomed nine and six new priests this weekend.

And not to be forgotten, just across the Hudson from Devils Country, the diocese of Brooklyn celebrated 20 new permanent deacons yesterday, among them a chemist, high school teacher, construction manager... and, yep, a taxi driver.

PHOTO: MaryJo Walicki/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel