By Tim Johnson and Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — “God has called our brother Christopher to the Priesthood, the Priesthood of His Son. And for this we rejoice today.” Those were the words of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as he began his homily at the Mass of Ordination of Christopher Raymond Lapp to the Holy Priesthood on Saturday, June 1, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne.
Priests and deacons from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, visiting priests and deacons from other dioceses and religious communities as well as faculty and staff of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, where Deacon Lapp attended seminary, were present for the regal celebration of the sacrament.
Msgr. Bernard Galic, director of the diocesan Office of Vocations and pastor of St. Aloysius, Yoder, formally presented candidate Lapp for the Priesthood and his readiness was affirmed.
“God enters Chris’ life in a new way today through the sacrament of priestly ordination,” Bishop Rhoades noted in the homily.
“Through priestly ordination, this man, our brother, will be inserted into the life and mission of Christ, the great High Priest and Good Shepherd, in order to extend His saving mission,” Bishop Rhoades added. “Soon to be ‘Father’ Christopher Lapp, he will do things which no man can do by his own power: in Christ’s name, he will speak the words which absolve us of our sins, and over the offerings of bread and wine, he will speak Christ’s words that make His Body and Blood present as food for His people.”
“How close God is to us, His beloved people, in the gifts He gives us through the ministry of the priests of His Son,” Bishop Rhoades exclaimed.
Bishop Rhoades focused the homily on the John’s Gospel, Chapter 10 and Psalm 23, readings chosen by Deacon Lapp, that refer to the Good Shepherd and get to the heart of the priestly vocation. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says: “I know mine and mine know me.”
“God indeed knows us and is concerned about every one of us. The ordained priest, through the sacrament of Holy Orders, is configured to Christ the Good Shepherd,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Chris, you are called first and foremost to reveal in your priestly life and ministry the love of the Good Shepherd for His flock. This will be your mission, to share the Lord’s love and concern for His people, in all you do.”
The psalmist writes, “He (the shepherd) guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. …”
Bishop Rhoades noted the priest points out the right path to those he serves.
“He goes before them and leads them,” Bishop Rhoades said. “And when they are walking in the dark valley, the priest is there to give hope and courage.”
“How many dark valleys there are: trials and temptations, discouragements and sufferings,” he added. “Chris and my brother priests, we must be good shepherds, bringing people light when they are in darkness, using the shepherd’s rod to protect our people and their faith, and using the shepherd’s staff to help people to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord. We must be there in the dark valleys — at hospital beds, in prisons, in funeral homes and at gravesides, bringing hope, bringing comfort.”
“We must be in the confessionals as doctors of mercy,” he added. “We cannot just wait in our rectories or hang out in our sacristies. We are anointed, like Jesus, for the poor, the outcast and the oppressed.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke of the Chrism oil that would be used to anoint the deacon’s hands.
“We are to let that holy oil, the oil of gladness, spread through our ministry of bringing the good news to all,” the bishop said. “The sacred Chrism has a beautiful fragrance. The priest brings that delightful fragrance to God’s people by His Word and example.”
Just as the Jesus lays down His life for His sheep, “Deacon Chris, by laying down your life, you will bring life, Christ’s life, to His people,” Bishop Rhoades said. “You will do this in countless ways: in preaching, in works of charity, in guiding people, in tending Christ’s sheep, seeking out the lost sheep, imparting absolution, anointing the sick.”
He added: “This laying down of your life will be sacramentally expressed every day in your celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of your priestly life and ministry. Chris, every time you offer Holy Mass, the heavens will be opened; Jesus, the Living Bread, will come down and give life to His people. It is in the Eucharist that you will experience the depth of the gift of the Priesthood. May you always be a faithful servant of the Eucharist as a humble and reverent minister of this amazing mystery!”
After the homily, Deacon Lapp declared his intentions to assume the responsibility of the office of Priesthood and promised obedience and respect to the bishop and his successors.
The elect then prostrated himself on the floor of the cathedral as a sign of his complete submission to the will of God, while the Litany of Saints was beautifully sung.
The deacon knelt before Bishop Rhoades and later the entire college of priests who processed by to lay hands on the head of the candidate, in accordance with the apostolic tradition. Then, with Deacon Lapp kneeling before him, Bishop Rhoades put aside the miter, and, with hands outstretched, prayed the Prayer of Ordination.
The newly ordained priest was then vested by Msgr. John Kuzmich, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, and Msgr. John Suelzer, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Fort Wayne, with the stole and chasuble, signs of the priestly office, after which Bishop Rhoades anointed the new priest’s palms with Chrism, a consecrated and perfumed oil that symbolizes wisdom and strength.
The gifts of the people were brought forward to Bishop Rhoades by the Lapp family members. They delivered the paten and chalice to Bishop Rhoades, who then handed them over to the Father Lapp with the exhortation to discharge his priestly duties in imitation of Christ.
The ordination rite concluded with Bishop Rhoades and all the other priests in attendance bestowing the fraternal kiss of peace on Father Lapp as a means of welcoming him into the presbyterate.
Following the Mass of Ordination the newly ordained Father Lapp gathered with Bishop Rhoades and the priests, deacons and seminarians on the cathedral plaza just as the sun appeared from behind the clouds. Those in attendance formed a receiving line from which Father Lapp extended his priestly blessing.
Father Lapp’s family was awestruck by the day, though it was a bittersweet occasion for them as well. Mom Juli said, “It’s been a hard week for me. My mom just died. … A big part of why Chris is a priest is because of Grandma.”
Dad Greg added that although Father Lapp’s grandmother was not with them, the family finds peace in the fact that all the grandparents are now together in heaven and he said, “They have the best seat in the house.”
Even in their grief the Lapps agree “there’s still a lot of joy.”
Father Lapp’s sister Becca was excited for her brother and said, “It’s a cool experience to go through. … It got me closer to Christ. I look up to him. He’ll make a good priest.”
Msgr. John Kuzmich, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne and Father Lapp’s home parish said of the day, “I am deeply humbled to be part of this — that God should bless St. Vincent’s over the years with such fine young candidates for the Priesthood.” The parish currently has the six seminarians and three new seminarian candidates.
Father Lapp is the last ordination for Msgr. Kuzmich, who will retire at the end of June.
Monsignor Kuzmich said of Father Lapp: “He’s a good man. I am so pleased for Chris and his wonderful family. And I am just pleased to be part of this. I thank God because it was truly an inspiring ceremony — the Mass and the beautiful ritual of being a priest.”
To prepare for the Father Lapp’s ordination, St. Vincent Parish just completed 40 Hours of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament beginning on May 30 at 4 p.m. and concluding at 8 a.m. on the ordination day.
“Chris took his turn before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer early this morning,” Msgr. Kuzmich told Today’s Catholic.
When asked how he felt now that he was finally ordained, Father Lapp smiled and said, “Good — joyful — peaceful — and excited!”
Father Lapp celebrated his first Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 2, at St. Vincent de Paul Parish with a reception that followed.
Bishop Rhoades has appointed Father Lapp as parochial vicar of St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, and chaplain at Marian High School, Mishawaka, effective June 17.
Photos are available at https://plus.google.com/photos/110561327464960550642/albums/5884597585619344801?banner=pwa
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