Eight men who are in their first year of theological studies at Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology were admitted for candidacy for ordination as deacons and priests during a Mass Sept. 11 in Sacred Heart Chapel at the seminary.
During the liturgy, they publicly announced their desire to bind themselves to the service of God and his holy people and to complete their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral preparation. Bishop Edward Malesic accepted them as candidates for the sacrament of holy orders as they continue their discernment and formation for the diaconate and priesthood for service to the Diocese of Cleveland and the Archdiocese of Daegu, South Korea.
The seven men accepted for candidacy from the Cleveland Diocese are Charles Christopher Bulger, Mitchell Timothy Carson, Cameron Michael Ferrell, Nathan Michael Frankart, Truong Joseph Viet Ho, Sean Patrick Neville and Brian Matthew Peters. Chunju Andrew Park was accepted for the Archdiocese of Daegu.
The bishop told all the seminarians they were in his prayers as they give their hearts to the Lord so that he can fill then with every grace and blessing.
“At some point in my life, close to the age of 20, I made the intentional decision to follow the Lord as one of his disciples. I had no idea where that decision would take me. Or, more to the point, I had no idea where the Lord would ask me to go. Suffice it to say, it has certainly been quite a journey from a college biology major just outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania, to a seminarian and philosophy major at the Josephinum in Columbus, to a priest of the Diocese of Harrrisburg, to bishop of Greensburg and now bishop of Cleveland,” he said. “I certainly did not take the vow of monastic stability,” the bishop quipped.
He said his “free and conscious decision to be a disciple of Christ has made all the difference to me and it has brought me to you. I have never regretted following my call from the Lord. Nor should any of you. All of you are here because you are disciples of Jesus.”
Addressing those admitted to candidacy for holy orders, the bishop said the Lord “has asked you to come and see. And here you are – hopefully with eyes open to see the Lord and ears open to hear the Lord.”
Bishop Malesic said the tug to ordained ministry has become so strong in the lives of the eight men that they must continue to explore its authenticity. But it is important to take the process of formation slowly. “The next few years are meant to be a time of testing, like going steady is a time of testing the vocation for marriage between a particular man and a particular woman. Yours will be a time of testing between you and ultimately, the Church,” he said, asking the seminarians to be patient with their formators and they will be patient with them. “And all of us must be patient with God. Let us take the time to grow in relationship together, because ultimately, it will be up to me – or another bishop – to lay hands on you.”
The men are entering the stage devoted to configuration during which they are being asked to mold their lives more closely to the life the Christ so that they can make their lives “a gift of self to others,” the bishop said. “Remember that he is the form and you are the clay. You must fit yourselves to him, not he to you. Be pliable during this time, especially listening to your formators, faculty, administration and all those who have been chosen to lead you to become priests that the Church needs today and in the future.”
The Church is asking much of them, he said, adding that in the next several years they must contemplate Christ in a profound way. “Much prayer will be necessary. It is the secret sauce for priests who must become all things to all people. Let the Lord deeper into your heart as you come to know his love for you,” Bishop Malesic said. “Do not give up on prayer.”
He told the men the Church is asking them to develop a missionary mindset, noting “You and the Church you will represent must go out to the peripheries of life and invite people to the Church where Jesus is found most profoundly in the Eucharist. There is no doubt that we need a Eucharistic revival in our country. And we also know that when people discover the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, their lives are changed. I know that is true for many of you who are here today.”
The bishop said people are absent from the Lord’s table and “They are hungering without even knowing it. We must help them to recover their hunger for Christ.”
He said we must learn from the Church at its beginning, when it first went out into an unbelieving world, noting that once again we are living in that type of apostolic age. “We are now a Church sent into the post-Christian world to proclaim the Gospel with clarity, energy and hopefulness because the world will not be converted to Christ without our authentic witness and our unwavering faith that he is risen from the dead.”
The world will not be converted to Christ “without our authentic witness and our unwavering faith that he is risen from the dead,” the bishop said, adding that the candidates, other seminarians, priests, religious and even himself are called to be disciples of Jesus who believe that he lives among them, speaks to them and calls them to follow him. “And follow him we must – and ask others to join us along the way to God’s kingdom.”
In conclusion, he told them “You must cultivate more fully your vocation using especially those means that can be offered to you as you help and support by the ecclesial community entrusted with this task.”
He assured them that “all of us, trusting in the Lord, will assist you with our love and prayers.”