We have a deacon!
Even though the short notice made it impossible to assemble a pilgrimage for the occasion, I cashed in my miles and flew to Rome for the ordination of Our Man Ben Petty to the Diaconate last week. What a graced and glorious occasion!
I hadn’t been out of the rectory for more than three nights in a row since March. Before heading into Rome, I took a few days in a secluded little bed-and-breakfast, venturing out into the countryside in my rental car. That helped clear my head a bit before the excitement of the city, and the ordination that drew priests and people from around the country. The usual places for American priests were so jammed that I had to stay in a friend’s apartment.
The ordination, like my own twenty-two years ago, was at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo of Houston was the ordaining prelate. Whereas my class saw twenty-three men ordained, this one had forty (40!). Fourof them were from the Archdiocese of Washington. Ben was not the only one with ties to Saint Bernadette: James Morrison, eldest son of Grace and Eric, was a parishioner here and a student in our school through fourth grade, about twelve years ago.
Ben, who became Catholic about twelve years ago, joined our parish after he moved to Washington to get a degree in theology. Some of you may remember him from when he helped teach second grade in our religious education program; others, perhaps, from his singing with the choir at the nine o’clock Mass (he was the one in the bow tie, more often than not); still others, from the sampling counter at Trader Joe’s. He was active here until he entered the seminary in 2013. Even if you don’t remember him at all, he remembers you: he counts Saint Bernadette his home parish and is proud of the association.
God willing, Deacon Ben Petty will be ordained Priest along with Deacon James Morrison and ten other men on Saturday June 15 of next year at our own Basilica here in Washington. He will offer his Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving the next morning, Father’s Day, here at the parish he considers his home and the place where his recognized his call to the priesthood. Plan now to be here then.
While waiting outside the sacristy of the Basilica for the procession to begin moving, a priest called my name; it was Fr. Scott Winchel of Savannah, who was a weekend seminarian here during 2008 – 2009, his deacon year at Mount Saint Mary’s. It was great to see him after so long! Now pastor of St. Joseph Church in Macon, Georgia, he too remembers Saint Bernadette clearly and fondly for all he experienced here.
Already the priests of the future are close to you, in the pew, serving at the altar, or helping form your kids. The grace that will enable them to respond Yes is at work in them, and through you. Your faith and love of the Lord Jesus help them discern and grow as much as anything else does; your encouragement is as important to them as any other word or example they receive. Pray, please pray for them, and all our young people, to discern their vocations and respond joyfully, faithfully, and eagerly.
Today, we have a new deacon; soon, he’ll be a priest. Keep being faithful, keep praying generously; already you are cooperating with Jesus in fulfilling his promise: I will give you shepherds.