Two who answered God s call ordained to priesthood

Friday, May 27, 2005 - Updated: 12:01 am
Chuck Moody, Staff Writer
As he began the Mass during which he would ordain two new priests to serve the diocese, Bishop Donald Wuerl told those present at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh s Oakland neighborhood May 21 that they were about to enter into the ancient ritual that finds its substance and antecedent in the very pages of the New Testament the ordination to ministry, the laying on of hands and the outpouring of the Holy Sprit.

All of this is directed to what will follow on that ordination the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of Christ being present with us today as his death and resurrection opens up to you and me the pledge of eternal life, Bishop Wuerl said.

The priests who were ordained were: Father Stephen Kresak, 36, of Stowe Township and St. John of God Parish in McKees Rocks; and Father Steven Neff, 38, of Chicora and St. Joseph Parish in North Oakland.

The rite of ordination began with the men being called to the order of priests. Father James Young, diocesan secretary for ministerial leadership, presented them to Bishop Wuerl for ordination and responded positively to the bishop s questions regarding their worthiness.

Bishop Wuerl said during his homily the context of the celebration was the ordination of Deacon Kresak and Deacon Neff to the ministerial priesthood.

This in itself would be reason for us to concentrate all of our focus and attention, he said. However, we have experienced events that create an even wider context the recent death and funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election and beginning of the pastoral ministry of Pope Benedict XVI.

Even though they were born before his election, the deacons to be ordained priests knew no other pope than John Paul II until the election of Benedict XVI, Bishop Wuerl said.

We pay so much attention to the office and role of the pope as successor to Peter and universal shepherd of the church because of his unique significance, the bishop said. It is of the very nature of the pope s office as head of the College of Bishops that he links us directly with the apostolic church in an unbroken line of bishops of Rome that we call the apostolic succession. But there is also this very ancient rite of ordination that links us directly with the apostles and the apostolic church.

In a sacramental action that has not changed, except in liturgical detail, in direct continuity with what we find in the pastoral letters of Saint Paul, I will lay on hands and invoke the power of the Holy Spirit on these men to ordain them to the order of priest and the service of the church.

In an unbroken line going back to the apostles and continuing to this day, the sacred ritual has been enacted in and for the church, Bishop Wuerl said.

With all of the sacramental power invested by Christ in his church, what we are about to do visibly will actually effect invisibly, spiritually and supernaturally the transformation of this man into a priest of the new covenant, the bishop said.

In the ritual of ordination, we see how a priest receives the spiritual power to do what only he can do, the bishop said.

In the account of the Last Supper, we find out what exactly it is that only the priest can do, he said. On the same first Holy Thursday on which he instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ conferred priesthood on the apostles: Do this in remembrance of me.

The reflection on the Eucharist and the priesthood was all the more appropriate as the ordination occurred in the Year of the Eucharist, Bishop Wuerl said.

In this time set apart to concentrate on the significance of the Eucharist, we can each personally renew our devotion to the eucharistic presence of the Lord, he said. In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, our Lord created what would be a living re-presentation of his death and resurrection. ...

In order that this life-giving mystery could continue down through the ages, Jesus called, charged and anointed in the Holy Spirit apostles who would carry on this sacred mystery forever in his memory.

Priestly ordination is an act of regeneration for the church, Bishop Wuerl said.

In every ordination, the church is renewed and another generation of spiritual leadership is brought forth, he said. It is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that ensures new spiritual leadership that enables the church to carry on its mission and the very work of Christ.

Bishop Wuerl told Deacons Kresak and Neff their ordination establishes your new relationship with Jesus in whose name you will act.

The bishop joined the families of Deacon Kresak and Deacon Neff, their friends and all the faithful of the local church in praise to God for this wonderful moment that promises so much good for the church.

May God bring to fruitful completion what today is so wondrously begun in you, he said.

During the promise of the elect, they answered questions from the bishop regarding their intention to enter the priesthood. They knelt before Bishop Wuerl, and, with their hands between those of the bishop, promised respect and obedience to him and his successors.

The bishop invited everyone to prepare for the central acts of ordination with fervent prayer. The elect prostrated themselves as the cantor led the assembly in calling upon Jesus, asking the prayer of the saints and offering the intercessions of the community.

In the most solemn gesture of the ordination rite, Bishop Wuerl silently laid his hands on the head of the two elect. The other priests who were present also laid their hands on the elect to signify their solidarity in the priestly ministry.

As the elect knelt, the bishop called upon the Holy Spirit to impart on them the grace and dignity of the priesthood. The newly ordained priests then put on the garments of their order.

Bishop Wuerl anointed the palms of the new priests with holy chrism, and he prayed that Jesus would preserve them for the work of sanctifying the Christian people and offering the church s sacrifice to God.

Bishop Wuerl then extended to the new priests his fraternal greeting, as did other representatives of the presbyterate.

The newly ordained priests then shared for the first time the ministry of offering the Eucharistic Prayer in the name of God s people in union with the bishop and the other concelebrating priests.

As the Mass concluded, Bishop Wuerl said nobody comes to an ordination alone.

There have been many, many people who have brought you to this point, and we want to express our gratitude today, recognizing that you did not make that journey to the altar of the Lord alone, he said.

The bishop thanked the people who accompanied the new priests on their journey to ordination: parents, family members, friends, pastors, priest friends, teachers, and seminary staff and faculty.

Just as no one comes to ordination alone, the newly ordained priests will never be alone again, the bishop said, because they had been ordained into the order of presbyter, the order of priests. Bishop Wuerl also said the new priests have him as their co-worker for the rest of their ministry.

The bishop joked that some of the pastors present were looking to see to which parish the new priests would be assigned.

Bishop Wuerl received the blessing of Father Kresak and Father Neff, who then conferred a blessing upon all those in attendance.

At the conclusion of the Mass, they went to the cathedral rectory to receive from the bishop their first parish assignments as parochial vicars.

Father Kresak was assigned to St. Ferdinand in Cranberry Township, and Father Neff was assigned to St. Alexis in Wexford.

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