By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
“When a Christian man is ordained, he receives and accepts something new that never disappears, something that changes him and makes him different from all others. God takes possession of him in a special way,” said Bishop Edward Cullen, bishop emeritus of Allentown, June 3 during the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood.
Bishop Cullen was the ordaining prelate and principal celebrant for the ceremony at St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, where John Rother, 26, was raised to the order of priest for the diocese.
In his homily, Bishop Cullen told the newly ordained and an estimated 200 faithful that the priesthood is a call, not a career; a way of life, not a job; a state of being, not just a function; and an identity, not just a role.
“God consecrates him to his service for the benefit of the rest of mankind. He makes him a sharer in Christ’s priesthood and gives him an altered personality. He is a priest continuously and internally. He is a priest always and at every moment. He is a priest whether he is performing the highest and most sublime office or the most humble action of ordinary life,” he said.
“Just as Christians cannot leave aside their baptismal character and then act as if they were not Christians, so neither can priests leave aside their priestly character and behave as if they were not priests.”
According to Bishop Cullen, a priest is always a priest because of his unique configuration to Christ and is seen with his identification with the cross.
“The more pronounced the cross is in the life of a priest, the more effective his priesthood is for those he is sent to serve,” he said.
Bishop Cullen maintained it is paradoxical that a priest says “yes” to the cross to bring greater insight and deeper compassion toward those in need.
“Through the power of prayer, a priest will experience the great consolation of never being abandoned by God while carrying his particular cross. Fervent prayer, while coping with the hardships of his cross, will bring the priest to experience a whole new intimacy with Christ,” he said.
Bishop Cullen also pointed out that two precious gifts are given to a priest after Jesus invites him to draw closer to him and as he fulfills his “yes” to God.
“One gift is being liberated from all fear. The other is God enlightening him to experience a whole new appreciation of the divine presence, which is the presence of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
He then told Father Rother that he will find himself living in a “spiritual place” that will profoundly influence his views on everything pertaining to God and the Holy Spirit.
“There is nothing more exciting, more liberating, more comforting and more strengthening than to be alive in the Holy Spirit’s mission and mankind’s sanctification,” he said.
“The truth of the matter is, that only being alive in the Holy Spirit will a priest develop personal sanctification which God desires his priests to possess. And when the priest possesses this degree of personal sanctification, the magnificent beauty of God’s love will shine forth in his whole being as it did on the day of his ordination.”
Rite of Ordination
After the Gospel reading, Bishop Cullen initiated the Rite of Ordination with the calling and presentation of the candidate to the bishop as a sign of worthiness for ordination.
At the consent of the people, the congregation indicated their acceptance of the bishop's decision to ordain Father Rother by applauding.
Bishop Cullen then examined the candidate's willingness to embrace the duties and obligations of the priestly office, before Father Rother kneeled before him and vowed to obey him and his successors.
Next, the bishop invited all present to pray for Father Rother as he prostrated himself before the altar as a sign of his submission before God during the Litany of Saints.
Rising to his feet, Father Rother knelt before Bishop Cullen again for the Laying on of Hands. This gesture, together with the Prayer of Consecration, is the outward sign of the ordination to the Order of Priests. In a like manner, those priests present imitated the motion as a sign of oneness of the priesthood they share.
The rite continued with the Prayer of Consecration and the Investiture with Stole and Chasuble with vesting priest Father William Linkchorst, pastor emeritus of SS. Peter and Paul, Tamaqua. Bishop Cullen then performed the Anointing of Hands with sacred chrism.
The ordination concluded with the bishop and priests welcoming the new priest into the presbyteral order with a fraternal kiss of peace.
Father Rother looking ahead to serving God’s people
Moved by the rite and Bishop Cullen’s remarks on the priesthood, Father Rother, whose first priestly assignment will be at St. Catharine of Siena, Reading, said he was particularly inspired by the Laying on of Hands
“I knelt there, not knowing exactly which priest was laying his hands on me. Looking back, I realize that this, and the entire ordination liturgy, reinforces one point: we are totally dependent on God's grace,” he said.
Father Rother also said he will heed Bishop Cullen’s reminder that the priesthood is not a job.
“We can’t take it off and then put it on again each day, because it’s a way of life. All a priest has to do is be available and open to God, in every situation, and God will do the rest,” he said.
During his years at the seminary, Father Rother said he came to realize that the priesthood is not an “achievement.”
“It is not something that I earned. It is God working through me. All I had to do was to be open to him. This helped me breathe a big sigh of relief and I think solidified my vocation,” he said.
While serving St. Catharine, he said, he is anxious to meet the good people he has heard about and to be invited into their lives.
“It is a real honor and privilege. I really look forward to that, and of course, celebrating the sacraments. I know, though, that I will not really experience those things to the fullest unless I’m open to God every day,” said Father Rother.
Father Rother is the son of John and MarySue (Liaw) Rother and a parish son of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Whitehall. He has two younger sisters, Melinda and Gracia.
He earned a master’s degree in theology in 2016 from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia and a master of arts degree from the seminary in 2017.
Father Rother earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from St. Charles Borromeo in 2013. He graduated from Allentown Central Catholic High School in 2009 and St. Elizabeth Regional School, Whitehall in 2005.
He was ordained to the diaconate in May 2016 at the cathedral by then Bishop John Barres, now bishop of Rockville Centre, New York.
Concelebrants were priests of the Diocese of Allentown and Archdiocese of Philadelphia.