‘Indescribable’ pride and joy

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After years of faith formation, vocational discernment and studies in seminaries across the world, seven men took the final step on their vocational journey June 8, as they were ordained to the priesthood by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.



Newly ordained Fathers Nicholas R. Barnes, Brendan W. Bartlett, Jason C. Burchell, Thomas B. Cavanaugh, Christopher H. Hayes, Michael C. Isenberg and Eric L. Shafer were joined at the Mass by a standing-room-only church filled with hundreds of priests, deacons, seminarians, family members, friends and well-wishers. Also in attendance were Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, who concelebrated the Mass.



Prior to the Mass, family members of the soon-to-be priests had difficulty expressing their emotions.



"There are no words for what I'm feeling inside right now," said Brenda Shafer, mother of now-Father Shafer. "We've come a long way, but it's definitely been worth it. We love him and we are just so proud."



"How do you explain heaven on earth in one day?" said Joan Isenberg, Father Isenberg's mother. "It's been a long seven years and it's like we've reached the gates of heaven today."



The Cavanaugh family also had heaven in mind, as they remembered Father Cavanaugh's grandfather, a devoted Catholic who passed away three years ago.



"He knew before he passed away that his grandson Tom was going to be a priest and he was immensely proud and grateful to God for filling Tom with the Holy Spirit," said Mary Manley, Father Cavanaugh's aunt. "This is an enormous, loving day for all of us because we're all thinking of Dad. He was about as Catholic as you can be."



"This is just the culmination of a long road and we're just thinking about (Tom's) years ahead and we know he's going to be a wonderful priest and serve well," said his mother, Susan.



During the Mass, Bishop Loverde said he felt "much joy and pride and hope in my heart that you now become my sons through ordination and my brother coworkers in the pastoral care of souls."



"This is a great joy being called. If my knees were better, I would have skipped down the aisle," the bishop said. "But of course that would be liturgically incorrect."



He advised the men to remember that Jesus always will be at their side and to always trust in the heart of Mary. He also provided advice for their priestly ministry, telling them to "see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe and that you practice what you teach."



Standing on the stairs in front of the cathedral following the Mass, Father Cavanaugh had only one word to describe his first moments as a priest: "Fantabulous."



"I didn't really have a specific expectation, but it's amazing," he said.



Father Isenberg called the feeling an "an incredible joy."



"It's kind of indescribable. It almost feels like nothing happened, but everything happened all at the same time," he said. "It's an amazing feeling, seeing God working in my life, and it's great to see my family and everyone here. They've been here throughout the journey."



Bahr can be reached on Twitter@KBahrACH.Julia Willis, intern for the Catholic Herald, contributed to this story.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013