By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
Three men became priests June 1 for the Diocese of Allentown by Bishop of Allentown Alfred Schlert during Ordination of a Priest at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown.
Bishop Schlert was the principal celebrant and ordaining prelate for the Mass and Ordination Rite where Deacon Giuseppe Esposito, Deacon John Maria and Deacon Zachary Wehr became priests for Jesus Christ.
“It’s a great day of rejoicing and blessing for the Diocese of Allentown,” Bishop Schlert told the newly-ordained and the faithful who filled the cathedral to capacity.
He called to mind the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation and said he was reminded of the line “may this building shake with great joy” after the faithful roared twice with applause and a standing ovation for the men.
“I think it this building shook today,” said Bishop Schlert.
After the Gospel reading, Bishop Schlert 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 Esposito, Father Maria, and Father Wehr by applauding.
Bishop Schlert then examined the candidates’ willingness to embrace the duties and obligations of the priestly office, before the transitional deacons kneeled before him and vowed obedience to him and his successors.
Next, the Bishop invited all present to pray for the men as they prostrated themselves before the altar as a sign of his submission before God during the Litany of Saints.
Rising to their feet, each man knelt before Bishop Schlert 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 repeated 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. Vesting priests were Monsignor Thomas Orsulak, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, Reading, Father Stephan Isaac, assistant pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Reading and Monsignor David James, Diocesan vicar general.
Bishop Schlert then performed the Anointing of Hands with sacred chrism in preparation for the sacred duties of breaking the bread, blessing, anointing and administering the sacraments to others.
The ordination concluded with the Bishop and priests welcoming the new priest into the presbyteral order with a fraternal kiss of peace.
In his remarks, Bishop Schlert thanked the families, friends and fellow priests of the newly ordained for supporting their vocation to the priesthood during a time of “spiritual warfare.”
“They are men of valor and courage in this time to step forward and become a priest,” he said.
Bishop Schlert then urged other men to consider discernment at the seminary and called on parents to encourage their sons to discern whether or not God is calling them to be a priest.
“Please don’t discourage them. It is a great gift you can give to the church,” said Bishop Schlert.
He then told the faithful the richness of the priesthood is very clear when looking at the new priests even though each man arrived on the path to the priesthood at different times and said the men represent the coal regions, Berks County and the Lehigh Valley.
“There is no place in this diocese that is not fertile for vocations,” stressed Bishop Schlert.
Referring to an article published in the National Catholic Register, 481 men were expected to be ordained priests in 2019 with many feeling God has called them to heal the Church and heal the image of Christ.
“These three men think that too. They recognize this is a time of need, suffering and healing. They are part of the path of healing and our future,” said Bishop Schlert.
Reminding the newly ordained and his fellow priests that they are priests for Christ, he asked them to absorb and put into practice “obedience.”
“I am not just talking about obedience to the bishop and going to where you are assigned,” he pointed out.
“This obedience goes beyond concrete ways. The preaching of the Gospel and offering the sacraments should never be about the priest. The priest fades into the background. It is Christ who celebrates the sacraments and brings about graceful effects,” said Bishop Schlert.
Like Pope John XXIII, whose episcopal motto “Oboedientia et pax,” which means, “Obedience and peace,” he told his fellow priests to conform to the will of God through the needs of the church.
According to Bishop Schlert, living an obedient life is not always easy but immersing themselves in daily prayer will ease their difficulties.
“Obedience leads to peaceful priesthood. It may not be necessarily how we sketched it out. But when we cooperate with God’s plan, he brings us peace to priestly ministry as servants of Jesus Christ,” he said.
“To our new priests, I ask you to remain faithful to the teachings of the church. Be present to your people,” said Bishop Schlert.
“Tend to the needs of your flock – their joys, sorrows and mundane and exulting times. Please love your people,” he said.
Principal concelebrant was Bishop Edward Cullen, bishop emeritus of Allentown. Concelebrants were priests of the Diocese of Allentown and visiting clergy.