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A Time of Promise and Hope

In recent days, our diocesan church has been experiencing a time of promise and hope. Several recent events lead to this happy conclusion. This past Saturday, June 7, I was privileged to ordain three new priests: Father Edward R. Horkan, Father Joel D. Jaffe and Father Mark Mullaney. Fathers Horkan and Jaffe completed their program of priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and Father Mullaney completed his at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewwod, Pa., adjacent to Philadelphia. These new priests will begin their new assignments on June 25, at the following parishes: Holy Spirit in Annandale (Father Horkan), Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria (Father Jaffe) and St. Theresa in Ashburn (Father Mullaney).

On the previous Saturday, May 31, I ordained one young man to the diaconate: Augustine Tran. He will enter his fourth year of theological studies at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. God willing, he will be ordained a priest on June 12, 2004. During this final year of formation, Deacon Tran will assist on weekends at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Annandale. Since our diocese continues to grow so rapidly, our need for more priests is truly real. (The same is true for an increase of religious sisters and religious brothers.) This year, I would have wished to have had at least two more priests to assign to other parishes that are in need. I urge each of you, who join with one another in forming this diocesan church, to pray daily for more vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Permit me to suggest a particular way in which to make this prayer. "Lord, if it be Your Holy Will, please choose someone from my family ? my family ? to be a priest, sister or brother. And if you do, I will support that person with my prayers and encouragement." Admittedly, this is a more difficult prayer because it reaches the heart of each family. But, it is also a more generous prayer and God responds to generosity! I believe that if, across the diocese, we would pray in this way, we will be given sufficient priests, sisters and brothers for service in this diocesan church well into this new century. Remember, the answer to tomorrow?s need begins today in prayer! Another event that prompts me to conclude that we are experiencing a time of promise and hope is the significant number of people confirmed since last Fall. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, a person is united more firmly to Christ, bound more closely to the Church, given the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit more fully, and made a witness of Christ to spread and defend the faith (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1303). The confirmed person becomes our partner, now committed in a deeper way, in proclaiming Jesus as Lord boldly and in living the Christian life faithfully. Since last October, when this year?s confirmations began, over 5,300 young persons and adults were anointed with the Holy Spirit. How blessed we are as a diocesan church to have these added witnesses to Christ and to our Catholic Faith. The Concluding Blessing for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation summarizes so well the privilege and responsibility that is theirs as newly confirmed members of the Church and our ongoing prayer for them. "God our Father, complete the work you have begun and keep the gifts of your Holy Spirit active in the hearts of your people. Make them ready to live his Gospel and eager to do his will. May they never be ashamed to proclaim to all the world Christ Crucified, living and reigning for ever and ever. Amen." A total of 600 persons participated in the Rite of Election, which took place in our Cathedral on March 8 and 9. These 600 come from slightly more than half of our parishes. Of these, 272 were catechumens (unbaptised persons who received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) and 328 were candidates (baptised non-Catholics who received the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist). A number of parishes did not send people to the Cathedral, so the actual number of those who entered the Church this year would be higher than 600, somewhere between 750 and 800 persons. In the name of all who form our diocesan church, I congratulate our new priests and deacon, all those who entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil and all our newly confirmed. We hold them in our daily prayer and find added strength in our united witness to the Lord. Yes, these days are a time of promise and hope! "Deo gratias!"

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