Bishop tells priests that, like Jeremiah, they must accept priesthood with humility but, foreordained to serve, they can trust in the One who has called them.
The following story appeared in the June 11 Idaho Catholic Register.
Above, Bishop Peter Christensen receives a blessing from the four newly ordained priests of the Diocese of Boise, from left, Father Aleksander Dembowski, Father Pawel Pawliszko, Father Adrian Leszko and Father Joshua Falce. Below right, following the laying on of hands by the Bishop, each priest of the Diocese lays hands upon each of the Elect of the Priesthood. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
By Gene Fadness
There were plenty of reasons to celebrate as hundreds of Catholics gathered on June 3 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist for the ordination of four men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Boise.
All four soon-to-be-priests are prostrate as the Litany of the Saints is sung during the Ordination Mass celebrated by Bishop Peter Christensen. (ICR photos/Vero Gutiérrez)
First, it has been 11 years since four men were ordained on the same day.
Second, it marked, in an unofficial way, the end of limited celebrations due to the corona virus pandemic, with no limits in attendance or mask requirements.
The priests receive a blessing from their brother priests in the Diocese of Boise. (ICR photos/ Vero Gutiérrez)
Third, the miracle of technology made it possible for the ordination to be livestreamed to family members of the priests in Poland and to fellow seminarians in Michigan and throughout the world. The 11 a.m. Mass in Boise aired at 7 that night in the Polish communities from which three of the men came.
Finally, the ordination came just the day before a weekend of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral.
The men ordained by Bishop Peter Christensen, eighth Bishop of Boise, are Aleksander Dembowski, Joshua Falce, Adrian Leszko and Pawel Pawliszko.
Bishop Peter Christensen with four new priests. From left, Father Adrian Leszko, Father Joshua Falce, Bishop Peter, Father Pawel Pawliszko and Father Aleksander Dembowski. (ICR photos/ Vero Gutiérrez)
All but Father Falce are natives of Poland. As graduates of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary near Detroit, they chose Boise as their home diocese.
After the ordination Mass, Father Pawel Pawlisko read a message in Polish to those listening from his homeland. “It is a beautiful and, at the same time, difficult time for us in which we must share our joy at a distance,” he said. “Unfortunately, due to the pre-vailing pandemic, we cannot be together this day, nor will we be able to celebrate our first Holy Masses in our home parishes in Poland. However, we are very grateful to you, dear parents, for your support, for the love and prayers that you give us. We thank you for the gift of life and education. For so many years, you have constantly supported us … These ordinations are the fruit of your love. You can be proud of us! … We are glad that you are with us on this day and we bless you with all our hearts saying: we love you!”
Father Joshua Falce, with priests from the Diocese of Boise behind him, concelebrates Mass with Bishop Peter Christensen. (ICR/ Vero Gutierrez)
Father Falce thanked the Idaho faithful who support vocations. “You have given us an immense gift,” he said. “Before you stands the fruit of your prayers,” he said, referring to the four newly ordained priests.
Though not from Poland, Father Falce also chose Boise. Originally from Washington state, he chose the Diocese of Boise while attending the St. Augustine Catholic Student Center on the University of Idaho campus while he was a student at Washington State University just over the state line from Moscow. He is a graduate of Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.
Just before ordaining the men, Bishop Peter asked them if they felt inadequate for the task ahead. “If so, good,” he said. “You’re where you need to be, humbly placing your trust in the Lord for all things.” He reminded the soon-to-be-priests of the Prophet Jeremiah’s response when he was told he was foreordained a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah responded: “I know not how to speak, I am too young!” (Jer 1:6)
It is no surprise that Jeremiah may have felt inadequate given the enormity of his calling, the Bishop said. The same is true for priests who are given a sacred responsibility and calling to act on behalf of God’s people.
The Bishop asked the priests to take special note to that part of the ordination liturgy when he hands the gifts of bread and wine to the just-ordained priest and says: “Receive the oblation (prayer) of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
It is the priest’s calling to “take the prayers of the people – their sacrifices, their gifts, their worship,” and present them together with the priest’s own prayers and sacrifices to the Lord on the altar. In return, the Lord offers his body and blood to be received by those gathered. “That’s powerful!” the Bishop said. “It’s no wonder that all priests feel a certain unworthiness in the actions they perform in the name of the Lord for the sake of their brothers and sisters.”
“When a priest wonders, as did Jeremiah, ‘Who am I, Lord?,’ the Lord will answer each of you time and again, ‘You are mine,’ ” the Bishop said. In the end, the work offered by the priest is not his own, but the Lord’s with the priest acting as servant, the Bishop said, quoting from II Corinthians 4:5, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and our-selves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.”
“You are slaves to the people of God for whom He has chosen us to minister,” the Bishop said.
“We need to accept our own radical poverty, and put all our trust in God alone. I encourage each of you, my brothers, to continue to do what you can humbly and faithfully, leaning on the Lord with a great spirit of faith. If you are of good will, if you learn to set aside your personal views and your own designs, the Holy Spirit will come to the aid of your weakness and the grace of God will do its work within you.”
Humility is essential for the Spirit-filled priest, the Bishop said. “The priest must obviously be a man who is filled with humility, without any arrogance or feeling of superiority in regard to anyone else. He must also be convinced of the beauty of the ministry that, in God’s mercy, has been entrusted to him,” the Bishop said. The priest should never doubt, in spite of his own weakness, “the grace that falls on him. Lean on this grace with trust in the One who has called you to the priesthood. He who calls you is faithful.”
He urged the men to remain in God’s love by keeping the commandments and deepening their relationship with the Lord. “The priesthood of Jesus Christ is not a perfunctory mission, but one of relationship, as Jesus invites you into a deeper union with His Father and the Holy Spirit. He will provide for your needs,” the Bishop said.
He concluded by asking the new priests to “welcome the prayers of the people, their sacrifices, their gifts, their worship of God. And, in turn, present them to God in your holy worship.” He said the Lord “will be using you to draw all people to Himself. Be faithful to our Lord and you will fulfill a share in His priesthood which he offers to you this day.”
As Bishop Peter Christensen hands the gifts of bread and wine to Father Aleksander Dembowski, he recites the words above from the ordination liturgy. Assisting the Bishop is Deacon Dennis Thomas of St. Mary’s Parish in Moscow. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
During a vespers service the night before the ordination, Father Caleb Vogel remarked on the stark difference between the priesthood under the Old Covenant and that under the New Covenant instituted by Jesus Christ.
Father Vogel, who is the vicar general and vocations director, referred to the Last Supper “where Jesus Christ institutes the Holy Priest-hood in a most strange way” by washing the feet of the disciples. Under the Old Covenant priesthood, a priest would walk away from a beggar because he needed to “stay far from sinners to remain pure.” Under the priesthood instituted by Christ, Jesus, instead of being far away, “draws near,” to become the servant of all by washing the feet of the disciples.
After the vespers service, priests from throughout the Diocese gathered with Bishop Peter and the four men to be ordained for a meal. Bishop Peter presented each of the men to be ordained with a stole, as he has done for each priest he has ordained since his arrival in the Diocese in late 2014.
Bishop Peter introduced the retired priests and invited them to share their favorite assignments. He also asked the newer priests who have been ordained since his arrival to share what they have loved the most, thus far, about being a priest. Responses ranged from offering up the sacraments, to the people, and to the fraternity of the priesthood.
Beginning next month, the four new priests will be serving as parochial vicars in their assigned parishes: Father Dembowski at St. John’s Cathedral, Father Falce at St. Edward’s in Twin Falls, Father Leszko at St. Mark’s in Boise, and Father Pawliszko at Our Lady of the Valley in Caldwell.
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