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Seminarians mark a milestone at St. Luke Church in McLean

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Surrounded by hundreds of family and friends, and dozens of diocesan priests, 15 seminarians walked to the front of St. Luke Church in McLean Aug. 12, where they stood before Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and promised to prepare themselves for the priesthood. 

“The church accepts your resolve with joy,” Bishop Burbidge replied. “May the Lord who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

For the rest of the Mass, seminarian Daniel Rice played back the words again and again in his mind. “For five years, I’ve been following God’s call to the priesthood,” said Rice, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the Pontifical College of the Josephinum in Ohio in May 2017. He recently completed a spiritual year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he will return this fall. “I’ve been pursuing this with the thought that this life will bring me joy. This was the first time that the church herself said that my proceeding to this vocation gives her joy.”

The Mass for Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders marked an emotional moment and important milestone for diocesan seminarians. The rite of admission is a formal recognition by the church that there are no known impediments to the seminarians’ ordination. It reflects a commitment by the seminarians —  called aspirants at this stage —  to prepare themselves for ministry. 

The phrase “May the Lord who has begun the good work in you …” is also a part of the rite of ordination to the transitional diaconate and ordination to the priesthood. 

“It’s an exciting moment to hear those words and to think about, God willing, ultimately hearing them at our ordinations,” said John Paul Heisler, who is in his second year of theology studies at St. Charles Borromeo.

The rite included aspirants from a range of classes. In the past, this event usually took place at the candidates’ respective seminaries, with the exception of those studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Different seminaries hold the rite of admission at different stages of formation. This year, Bishop Burbidge decided to ask all the seminarians, along with Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde and dozens of diocesan priests, to gather at St. Luke. Any diocesan seminarian who already completed the college or pre-theology portion of his studies and had not received official candidacy to Holy Orders took part in the rite.

“In his divine and mysterious plan, the Lord is the one who has chosen you, who has put you forth and led you to this day,” Bishop Burbidge, a former seminary rector, told the aspirants during his homily. “Your trusting and generous response to his call will be manifested as soon as you promise to continue your priestly formation by preparing yourself in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord.

 “And in this ceremony,” he said, “the Church will accept your resolve with great joy.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018