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Four priests ordained: A day of joy, with most pandemic restrictions lifted

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge ordained four men to the priesthood June 5 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington: Fathers Jonathan R. Fioramonti, John Paul J. Heisler, Jonathan M. Smith and Joseph B. Townsend.

With most pandemic restrictions recently lifted, the mood in the cathedral was one of joy and thanksgiving, both at being able to gather with friends and relatives to witness the ordination, which Bishop Burbidge called “a tremendous work of God,” and also “for granting us perseverance and for remaining true to his promise to deliver us from our trials” during the height of the pandemic. He added that prayers continue for those who have died in the past year and those still suffering. 

But he noted that joy was the emotion of the day. “I am still amazed that these four men have first names beginning with the letter J. So maybe it is not surprising that an evident characteristic they share begins with the same letter: joy.”

Bishop Burbidge said their joy at being ordained was even visible in the video profiles of each of the men recorded by the diocesan communications office, in which “each stated joyfully and proudly: ‘I am going to be ordained a priest of Jesus Christ!’ And they made clear the reasons for their joy: because despite their unworthiness, the Lord Our God, has chosen them, and because ‘by remaining in his love,’ as Jesus says, their joy will be complete and they will find the grace to carry out faithfully the ministry entrusted to them.”

“More than ever, our church and world need priests to take Jesus Christ to them,” Bishop Burbidge said, telling the ordinandi, “You will take Christ with you wherever he sends you.” He named the four parishes where they are assigned as parochial vicars: St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax (Father Fioramonti); St. James in Falls Church (Father Heisler); St. Andrew the Apostle in Clifton (Father Smith); and the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria (Father Townsend). 

Bishop Burbidge said he is often concerned “that the men about to be ordained could be overwhelmed by all that is expected of them by the Lord, his church and their Bishop! But you will not be, if you trust in the assurance the Lord spoke to you today: ‘Have no fear because I am here to deliver you,’ if you constantly call upon the Holy Spirit to sanctify you, and seek the constant help and protection of Mary our Mother, St. Joseph and all the saints. Then, you will be filled with true priestly joy.  

“I am confident that as you go forth as our newest priests, those you are sent to serve will easily recognize you, through your faithful witness, humility and sacrificial service. Be assured that the One who has chosen you will sustain you and be with you today and forever. Remain in his love, so that his love may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”

After the homily, the four promised to worthily carry out their priestly office, preaching the Gospel, celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, praying for the people entrusted to their care, and uniting themselves ever more closely to Christ as his priests. Each knelt before the Bishop, put their hands in his and promised respect and obedience to him and his successors, with the words “I do.”

Next came the moving Litany of Supplication, when the four men lay prostrate before the altar as the Litany of Saints was sung. 

They went one by one to kneel again before the Bishop, as he lay his hands on each of their heads in blessing. About 80 concelebrating priests did the same. As the four men returned to their places and kneeled, the Bishop prayed the Prayer of Ordination. 

Then the newly ordained stood and clergy assisted each in putting on their new vestments: a priest’s stole and chasuble. Father Nicholas Blank assisted Father Fioramonti; Father Donald J. Planty assisted Father Heisler; Youth Apostles Father Peter Nassetta assisted Father Smith; and Father Daniel Hanley assisted Father Townsend. 

The newly ordained again went to the Bishop and knelt before him as he anointed the palms of their hands with holy chrism. After they washed and returned, he placed a paten with bread and a chalice of wine in the hands of each, then gave each of the newly ordained the fraternal kiss. Concelebrating priests also filed past again to offer the newly ordained brethren the fraternal kiss.

The four new priests then gathered around the altar to concelebrate their first Mass. In a moving final part of the ceremony, each went to Bishop Burbidge, who knelt before them for a blessing. They also went to the side of the sanctuary to give a blessing to the two other bishops present, Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde and Bishop Timothy C. Senior, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. 

Outside after Mass under four small canopy tents, friends and relatives lined up for hugs and the traditional first blessings. 

One of the first in line was Christine Curran of Carmel, Ind., maternal grandmother of Father Heisler. She said she was not surprised he was called to the priesthood because he was “always filled with joy.” As a teenager, “he was very outgoing,” she said. 

Father Smith’s parents, Mary and Michael Smith of Columbus, Ohio, stood outside their son’s tent, watching him bestow blessings on friends and well-wishers. “His faith in God is going to spread to so many other people,” his mother said. “His influence is just beginning,” added his dad.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021