By Tim Johnson and Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — Describing the Holy Priesthood as the “ministry of Eucharistic love” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ordained two new priests — Father Jacob Meyer and Father Benjamin Muhlenkamp — at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Saturday, May 26.
“Today, Deacon Ben and Deacon Jacob enter the priesthood of Christ through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They pledge to serve Christ and to follow His call. For this, we thank these two young men. And we thank the Lord for the gift of the priesthood, a gift for the Church and for the world. Our diocese rejoices today in this gift,” said Bishop Rhoades in the opening remarks of his homily.
The Rite of Ordination began before a capacity congregation with the formal presentation of the candidates by Msgr. Bernard Galic, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, Yoder. Msgr. Galic affirmed the readiness of both candidates.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke of how the deacons “will be united to Jesus Christ in a new and radical way. A new seal will be imprinted on their very being.”
Bishop Rhoades explained a priest’s mission is “to link the world with God and with humanity, to be a mediator: to bring human beings to God, to redemption, to true and eternal life.”
“Ben and Jacob, today receive the divine authorization through the Sacrament of Holy Orders,” Bishop Rhoades said. “God gives them what they are unable to take upon themselves. God gives them the gift of participation in the priesthood of Christ.”
He added, “By virtue of the sacrament, they will be empowered to speak in the person of Christ the Priest who will use their lips and their hands.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “A good and holy priest is one who is constantly striving, with the help of God’s grace, to grow in these human virtues.” These virtues include generosity, goodness, justice, prudence and wisdom.
“When we think of the life and ministry of the priest today, we must see it in the light of the priesthood of Jesus and His mediation,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Ben and Jacob are called to be instruments of this mediation in all they do as priests of Jesus Christ: in their love and compassion for the suffering, in their ministry of anointing the sick, in their hearing confessions, in their preaching the liberating truth of the Gospel, and in their celebration of the Holy Eucharist.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “The Eucharist must be the heart of your priestly life and ministry. It is something real and essential that must also become existential, that is, something you live each day, especially in your pastoral ministry.”
Bishop Rhoades entrusted the two to the loving care of Mary, the heavenly mother of priests: “May she intercede for you, that you may joyfully carry out the holy mission you receive today!”
After the homily, Deacon Jacob Meyer and Deacon Ben Muhlenkamp declared their 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 themselves on the floor of the cathedral as a sign of their complete submission to the will of God, while the Litany of Saints was beautifully sung.
The deacons knelt before Bishop Rhoades and later the entire college of priests who processed by to lay hands on the heads of the candidates, in accordance with the apostolic tradition. Then, with Deacon Jacob Meyer and Deacon Ben Muhlenkamp kneeling before him, Bishop Rhoades put aside the miter, and, with hands outstretched, prayed the Prayer of Ordination.
The newly-ordained priests were then vested — Father Ben Muhlenkamp by Father Mark Gurtner, pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope Church, Fort Wayne; and Father Jacob Meyer by Msgr. William Schooler, pastor of St. Pius X Church, Granger — with the stole and chasuble, signs of the priestly office, after which Bishop Rhoades anointed their palms with chrism, a consecrated and perfumed oil that symbolizes wisdom and strength.
The gifts for the Liturgy of the Eucharist were brought forward to Bishop Rhoades by Bud Hoying, Lyn Brophy, Kurt and Julie Meyer. They delivered the paten and chalice to Bishop Rhoades, who then handed them over to the newly ordained with the exhortation to discharge their 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 Meyer and Father Muhlenkamp, as a means of welcoming them into the presbyterate.
The celebration of the Eucharist, rich with the symbolic incense and regal music that filled the cathedral with joy, was concelebrated by the newly ordained along with dozens of diocesan priests. Bishop Rhoades concluded the rite with a note of gratitude to all who had assisted the two young priests on their journey toward the priesthood and made the Mass of Ordination so special. Fathers Meyer and Muhlenkamp were then affirmed by a rousing standing ovation.
Following the Mass the newly ordained priests exited the cathedral and stepped out onto the sunlit plaza where dozens of priests and deacons applauded their newly established status as brother priests. Following congratulations from both Bishop Rhoades and Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop emeritus, who accepted the two into the seminary, photos were taken and friends and family lined up to receive their first blessings from the new priests.
Father Jacob Meyer told Today’s Catholic he felt “absolutely overwhelmed with blessings. This is such a momentous moment that you feel just full of grace. It’s almost like Our Lady — you feel so close to her. She brings us closer to her Son.”
Father Meyer’s family was in awe as they heard their beaming son remark, “It’s one of the best days — where the will of the Lord has been done. And for the rest of my life I get to do His will to the best of my ability.”
Father Meyer’s mother, Julie, said of the ordination, “It was humbling and very joyful.” She is grateful to all who have assisted her son on his spiritual journey toward this day and said, “As a mother it is comforting to know of all the priest, deacons, laypeople and all those who’ve helped him on his journey. It’s a great day!”
Father Meyer’s dad, Kurt, provided some comic relief, saying, when asked what it felt like to be the father of a priest: “(A priest) coming from me, the Good Lord has a sense of humor.” He added that his son got his faith from his mother and his leadership skills from his dad.
Father Ben Muhlenkamp said, “It’s just so humbling to believe what these hands can now do and what the Lord wants to work through these hands. Right now I just have such a feeling of thankfulness unto God.”
His mother Mary Agnes agreed with her newly ordained son and remarked, “You anticipate this day but when it comes you simple can’t grasp it.” She is confident that Father Muhlenkamp will be a “servant of the Lord.”
Gary Muhlenkamp, Father Muhlenkamp’s dad explained that much prayer had gone into this day. “A lot of years,” he said adding with conviction, “Ben is doing the best thing he could do.”
Sisters Hanna and Lori were overjoyed and overwhelmed. The pride they felt for their brother was evident when they chimed together that this was the best day of their lives.
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