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SOUTH END — Even as the Archdiocese of Boston prepared itself for dozens of parish closures, seven men readied themselves to shepherd God’s flock.
The seminarians, two from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary and five from St. John’s Seminary, were ordained by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley while hundreds of relatives, friends, fellow seminarians, deacons, priests and religious witnessed the memorable event at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 22.
"Discovering one's vocation is like discovering a most precious pearl," Archbishop O'Malley said in his homily, referring to the Gospel story of the man who leaves everything he has in order to gain a marvelous jewel.
However, the archbishop continued, “if we think that we are leaving everything, I tell you, we are leaving nothing — so great is the master of souls.”
In a homily that was full of solid, almost paternal advice for the new priests, the archbishop stressed the importance of “living for others,” of forming “a priestly consciousness,” of adhering to a rich prayer life and of never forgetting to preach the Word of God.
"We live in a world where there is a hunger for forgiveness, hunger for meaning, hunger for communion with God," he said. "God has given us a remedy for these great yearnings in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in the confessional and at the altar."
"Be a physician of souls and a teacher of hearts," urged Archbishop O'Malley.
"The priesthood is a brave act of love," he told the ordinandi. "By becoming a priest we become a part of something bigger than ourselves."
"When you bend over the chalice and say, 'This is my blood,' you can echo the words of Paul -- 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,'" Archbishop O'Malley said.
The archbishop stressed the importance of “a deep life of prayer,” for it is only through a rich prayer life “that a priest can understand the depth of what he is called to.”
Archbishop O’Malley also warned the news priests against becoming too bound up in worldly affairs.
"The world is a dangerous place for believers," he cautioned. "To be a good priest is not to be a worldly priest, but to have a mission in the world."
As a parish priest, continued the archbishop, “the world must be your natural habitat” because it is critical that the priest “accompany God’s people in all the most important parts of their lives.”
Equally important, Archbishop O’Malley continued, is the ability to preach the word of God.
"Devour this Word [of God] so you can proclaim it with your whole heart," he exhorted. "Preach the word in season and out of season. When convenient and not convenient [because] when the priest is preaching the Word of God, the power of the Word is unleashed."
"As priests, we are vessels of clay, but the treasure is the same," he said.
Concluding his homily, Archbishop O’Malley referred to the passage of the Gospel of John in which Jesus tells the disciples of the need to bring people to eternal life, likening it to the harvest time.
"Behold, the fields are ripe for the harvest. Roll up your sleeves," said the archbishop.
Following the homily, each candidate promised obedience to Archbishop O’Malley and his successors. The Litany of the Saints was then sung by the choir and assembly, as the seven men lay prostrate in front of the archbishop as a sign of humility.
Archbishop O’Malley then prayed silently over each of the seven candidates as he laid his hands upon their heads. He then invited all the priests in the assembly to follow suit.
Immediately thereafter, the archbishop recited the Prayer of Consecration, and the candidates became priests.
As part of the ceremony, the newly ordained were then presented with a series of significant items. Each priest was vested with a stole and chasuble — the signs of the office of priesthood — and their hands were anointed with the Oil of Chrism.
Each of the newly ordained priests was presented with a paten and chalice — signs of the gifts of the people — as Archbishop O’Malley exhorted them, “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to Him. Know what you are doing and imitate the mysteries you celebrate. Model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
The new priests then took their places behind the altar to concelebrate the Mass for the first time.
At the conclusion of the three-hour liturgy, Archbishop O’Malley knelt before the new priests as they each laid their hands upon his head and prayed over him.
Kristine Drea, sister of Father Michael Drea, was delighted with the celebration.
"It seemed like just yesterday when he told us he was going into the seminary, and now he's Father Michael," she exclaimed. "We're so proud of him."
"This is one of the best days ever of my entire life," echoed Father George Hines, his face alight with joy as his proud parents, George and Rose Hines looked on.
"Words cannot describe how I feel right now," declared an elated Father Jason Worthley, one of the newly ordained priests. "There is such a wide range of emotions right now, but all of them are good."