Priesthood ordination filled with sacred, simple moments

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The Mass of ordination June 7 overflowed with moments of sacredness and humanness.

As Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde laid his hands on the deacons and recited the prayer of consecration, six men - through the invocation of the Holy Spirit - officially were elevated to the priesthood. Seconds later, now-Father James C. Hinkle's mother, Meredith, wiped tears from her eyes; a subtle smile appeared on the face of Father Joel D. Jaffe, Arlington diocesan vocations director; and a number of family members and friends of the new priests snapped photos with smartphones.

There to witness the ordination and welcome the new priests were hundreds of family and friends, priests and deacons, Knights of Columbus, religious, and laity. Also present was Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Half of the new priests plan to serve as Navy chaplains after a period of time spent in the Arlington Diocese. There is a great need for military chaplains, and Archbishop Broglio said after Mass that he felt "tremendous joy" that these men had chosen to serve the church and military in this way. All six new priests, he added, "are a great source of hope."

Bishop Loverde's words at the end of Mass acknowledged both the sacred mystery and human joy of the liturgy. After listing the names of the men with "Father" in front of them - Christopher P. Christensen, David A. Dufresne, James C. Hinkle, Mauricio R. Pineda, Scott Sina and Steven R. Walker - he said to the applause of the congregation, "That sounds so beautiful."

Father Christensen was so overcome with emotion following ordination that he forgot about this new title. "Hello, I'm Deacon Chris," he began to say greeting well-wishers outside the cathedral. Followed by, "Oh, wait," and then laughter.

The grace and gifts of the sacrament are so tremendous, it will take a while for it all to sink in, said Father Christensen.

"It's all so amazingly beautiful," he said. "I'm ecstatic."

During his homily, Bishop Loverde spoke directly to the priesthood candidates, emphasizing the importance of being shepherds of their flocks and keeping the love of Jesus at the heart of their ministry.

"You will be teachers of the word, instruments of His saving grace in the celebration of the sacraments, and faith-filled shepherds guiding and guarding those entrusted to you," he said.

Drawing from Pope Francis' June 6 homily directed at bishops and priests, Bishop Loverde told the men never to "'never forget your first love,' who is Jesus."

The rite of ordination, which takes place between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, began with Father Jaffe declaring the men worthy of the responsibility of priesthood. The bishop then asked them: "Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?" to which the men replied, "I do."

The men then prostrated themselves in front of the bishop, an ancient posture of supplication symbolizing dying to the old self and rising to the new.

Following the presentation of the gifts, each new priest knelt before Bishop Loverde, who presented the chalice and paten to them. "Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord's cross," said the bishop.

After these sacred acts, there was a traditional "fraternal kiss" of welcome from the clergy present. One by one, the multitude of priests embraced the six men, joy welling up and expressed with many bear hugs and claps on the back.

At the reception in Burke Hall after the ordination, the diocese's newest priests blessed family and friends, radiant as they held their arms outstretched over loved ones.

"Today is everything I could have asked for and more," said Father Sina.

Echoing nearly all the new priests, Father Walker said between blessings that it is difficult to articulate the powerful emotions he felt. "I'm so grateful to God for His grace and mercy," he said.

Meredith Hinkle said that seeing not only her son ordained but also the five other men is "an overwhelming feeling."

"It's not just your son you're watching; we've walked this journey with all of them."

With men such as these, she added, "the Catholic Church is in great shape."

Click here to buy photos from the ordination.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014