Today is an anniversary of the joyous variety. On 9 June 2011 Andy Downing, SJ, Matt Monnig, SJ and I were ordained priests by Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill, just at the terminus of the B Train on the Green Line and the edge of the Boston College Campus. The day was cool, cloudy and rain free. By evening the weather had turned as perfect as Boston can be in June and stayed that way for our first Masses the following day.
I still can’t put my feelings about that day and the past four years of priesthood into articulate sentences. Perhaps next year. Most overwhelming was the presence of family, friends, former and current residents, colleagues, and teachers, some of whom had travelled great distances at considerable expense to be there. The greatest grace was that mom, who was approaching 90, was there in more than fine form, enjoying every moment.
Cardinal O’Malley gave a splendid homily. As soon as he finished his story about his “first homily” in prison I could here my brother revising it for his own purposes. Once Cardinal O’Malley finished his homily the long rite of ordination began. I was lucky. Everything was alphabetical thus I didn’t have to remember anything from rehearsal the night before. I just did everything that Andy and Matt did before me. Nothing has been the same since.
I celebrated my first Mass the following day at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Campion Center in Weston, MA, about twenty miles west of Boston. I’d chosen that setting immediately upon being informed that I was approved for ordination a year earlier. It is a beautiful chapel, has ample parking, was the place at which we had pronounced our perpetual vows eight years earlier, and is where our the province assisted living and nursing facilities are located. I wanted, and had, all the men in assisted living and nursing home care who were able vested so as to concelebrate. It was moving to be able to share that moment with the men who had gone before me, some of whom had been ordained before I was born 58 years earlier.
The rest of the week was exhilarating and exhausting. The week ended with a Mass of Thanksgiving at my home parish, All Saint’s, in Plymouth and then a return to D.C. I didn't notice the exhaustion until I got back to D.C. when beginning at 8 PM I slept for 11 straight hours, something I never do if my temperature is under 104 .
Rather than trying to put my feelings about June 9, 2011 into words I will put up a few photos of the day with commentary.
The entry procession. I should add that the music at St. Ignatius was magnificent and then some.
Cardinal O'Malley giving his homily.
Prostration during the Litany of the Saints. This is one of the most moving parts of the ordination. It was a struggle to keep emotions under control.
Cardinal O'Malley laid his hands on us first, invoking the Holy Spirit, followed by approximately 100 other priests. This is done silently. I've attended a few ordinations in the past four years. This is a deeply moving moment for both those who are ordained and those being ordained.
Being vested. George Murray, S.J., M.D. was my vesting priest. Fifteen years earlier he trained me as a consultation psychiatrist. Really, there was no other choice. George supplied some of the humor. The chasuble was crooked and the collar was askew. A nun sitting two rows behind me adjusted the collar (I suspect it was driving her crazy) at which point my friend Ignatius (the tall Chinese guy kneeling in the background in the litany photo) indicated, using sign language, that I really had to adjust the chasuble as the crosses were heading diagonally rather than vertically.
Mom bringing the gifts up at the offertory. My niece Kate is pushing her chair.
Communion during concelebration. Most of George is visible. Jack Butler, S.J., who keeps me sane during those moments when sanity does not seem to be an option, is standing next to him in the very colorful stole.
Cardinal O'Malley with mom and me.
Finally, the family to whom I am deeply indebted. One mother, two sisters, a twin brother, a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law and one niece.
We have a busy week coming up. On Tuesday I am going to the Opera House to hear Lang Lang play Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1. On Friday we scatter for a five week experiment. I will be going to Port Lincoln, South Australia, to work in a parish (or parishes). Port Lincoln appears to be very photogenic. I'll be ready.