Serra Clubs fete newly ordained Father John Rother at celebratory dinner

By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer

“Tonight we honor Father John Rother and give thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood,” said Father Robert Finlan, guest speaker of the Ordinandi Dinner honoring Father John Rother, newly ordained priest of the Diocese of Allentown June 19 at St. Mary, Hamburg.

Father Finlan is pastor of St. Joseph, Frackville.

Father Rother’s first priestly assignment is assistant pastor of St. Catharine of Siena, Reading.

Bishop Emeritus of Allentown Edward Cullen and Bishop-elect Alfred Schlert also offered their reflections.

The Serra Clubs of the Diocese of Allentown District I-80 hosted the celebratory evening that drew 173 guests; 24 additional ticketholders did not make it due to weather-related issues, as a powerful storm hit the area prior to the dinner.

Those attending included Father Rother’s family, clergy, women religious and Serrans. Father Rother’s family members attending were his parents, John and MarySue Rother, sisters Melinda and Gracia, grandmothers Joan Rother and Judith Liaw, and aunt Marianne Bright.

The theme of the evening was “The Priesthood is Love of the Heart of Jesus.”

Marie Mazzini, district governor-elect, presented Father Rother with gifts on behalf of Serrans, including the medal “Mary, Queen of the Clergy, Pray for Us.”

At the Priest Appreciation Dinner in 2007, Serrans presented this medal to every priest in the Diocese of Allentown. They have since continued to give it to all newly ordained priests and, when possible, to priests coming into the diocese.

Msgr. Francis Nave, pastor of Sacred Heart, Bath, had found the original medal in a rectory drawer and had always treasured it. Serrans had it reforged to present to priests.

Father Rother was also given a replica of the Blessed Junipero Serra plaque, originally crafted by the late Serran Joe Iezzi.

Father Finlan

Father Finlan shared his philosophy in the pastoral ministry of a diocesan priest: Show up sane, sober and smiling.

“True obedience is found in the work of the Holy Spirit,” Father Finlan said. “The priest’s assignment is a journey to a place that Christ has chosen.

“The priest must show up and be truly present to those he is called to serve.”

Father Finlan said he thought of Servant of God Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek – currently on the path to sainthood – who never thought he would be in the Gulag, yet continued God’s work there.

Shenandoah native Father Ciszek was arrested in 1941 under accusations of espionage for the Vatican and sent to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he spent a total of five years, most of it in solitary confinement. In 1942 he was drugged and signed a confession under severe torture, and was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in the Gulag.

Father Ciszek continued to pray, celebrate Divine Liturgy, hear confessions, conduct retreats and perform parish ministry. Until he was allowed to write to America in 1955, he was presumed dead by his family and the Jesuit order.

A priest, Father Finlan said, “must be submerged in the lives of God’s people to be present in the lives of those people.”

He said things will happen and a priest must be focused and have a sober, serious state of mind in dealing with them, but a priest must also smile, reflecting the joy of Jesus.

Bishop Cullen

Ordained a priest in 1962, Bishop Cullen celebrates 55 years as a priest this year.

“It’s wonderful to be here with Serra. I’ve tried to keep close to Serra during my years in the diocese.”

Bishop Cullen said it was wonderful to ordain Father Rother to the priesthood, and gave kudos to the sentiments shared by Father Finlan.

“Remember you’re all called to subordinate your will to the will of the Father – if not, you can’t glorify God,” Bishop Cullen said. “And what does God need from us except to glorify him?”

Bishop Cullen said the Holy Spirit is the person who will enlighten us with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord (wonder).

Bishop-elect Schlert

“If we could only ordain one priest this year, God blessed us with a priest of the caliber of Father John Rother,” Bishop-elect. Schlert said.

Bishop-elect Schlert also asked for prayers for parents to be open to giving their children to the church, the way the Rothers have been.

“Our seminarians are an outstanding group of men.”

Father Rother

“Thank you everyone for coming out tonight,” Father Rother said, voicing special thanks to Bishop Cullen.

Father Rother joked when he first met Father Finlan five years ago, he thought “Show up sane, sober and smile” meant “Don’t show up crazy, drunk and miserable.”

“But what he said tonight really fleshed that out.”

Father Rother also thanked his family for helping to keep him humble as he begins his priestly ministry.

Other participants

Stephen Hahn, Serra I-80 district governor, welcomed those gathered and was the evening’s master of ceremonies. He spoke of the link between Eucharistic adoration and an increase in vocations.

Hahn also noted an upcoming diocesan event of interest to Serrans: “Quo Vadis” and “Fiat Days” vocation camps for young men and women Sunday, July 16 through Thursday, July 20 at DeSales University, Center Valley (see page 12).

Father Anthony Mongiello, pastor of St. Anne, Bethlehem and chaplain of the Bethlehem Serra Club, led the prayer for vocations. Msgr. Daniel Yenushosky, pastor of Holy Trinity, Whitehall and chaplain of the Allentown Serra Club, led the Prayer for Vocations. Father Edward Essig, pastor of St. Francis de Sales, Robesonia, led the prayer for the Perseverance of Vocations.

Msgr. David James, director of the diocesan Office of Vocations, introduced Father Finlan.  Distinguished guests included Bishop Cullen; Bishop-elect Alfred Schlert; Msgr. Gerald Gobitas, diocesan chancellor and secretary of the diocesan Secretariat for Clergy; and Msgr. James.

What is Serra?

Serra is a nonprofit Catholic organization made up of laymen and laywomen who pray and work to foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood and consecrated religious life.

Its name is derived from Blessed Father Junípero Serra, a Franciscan missionary priest who established many missions in California in the late 1700s through his evangelization, and was canonized by Pope Francis Sept. 23, 2015.

Serra Clubs in the Diocese of Allentown and their contacts:

Allentown – Robert Conner, 610-395-1362.

Bethlehem – Gus Heidecker, 610-865-1190,

Carbon/Schuylkill Serra Club – Mary Marzen, 610-597-6727,

Forks of the Delaware (Easton area) – Louise Cardell, 610-253-8034.

Reading – John McGee, 610-779-9714.