June 10, 2015 // Local

Priesthood celebrated, four ordained

By Tim Johnson

After being ordained to the Priesthood on Saturday, June 6, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, from left, Father Jonathan Norton, Father Royce Gregerson, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Father William Meininger and Father Matthew Soberalski pose for a photo on the plaza of the cathedral.

Additional photos can be found here.

Find the new priests assignments here.

FORT WAYNE — “With this priestly consecration, you will be given a mission, an awesome mission — to continue Christ’s personal mission as Teacher, Priest and Shepherd. You will be consecrated for this three-fold mission — to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the sacraments and to shepherd God’s people. You will equipped for this holy mission by the grace you receive today and every day through the sacrament of Holy Orders,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during his homily at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on June 6, just minutes before ordaining four new diocesan priests who will serve the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

On a day of historic proportions — the first ordination of four priests since 1984 — the cathedral resounded with joy, praise and thanksgiving as Royce Gregerson, William Meininger, Jonathan Norton and Matthew Soberalski were ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop Rhoades. Family, friends and the faithful filled the cathedral to an overflowing capacity in celebration of the day.

The Rite of Ordination began with the names of the candidates being formally presented by Father Andrew Budzinski, the vocations director of the diocese. Father Budzinski affirmed the readiness of the candidates.

After this Election of the Candidates, Bishop Rhoades addressed his homily to the elect, the soon-to-be ordained.

“My sons about to be ordained to the Priesthood, today you will be consecrated/sanctified in the truth and you will be sent by Christ into the world and into our diocese,” Bishop Rhoades said. “You were already consecrated to the Lord when you were baptized.”

He added, “Today, you are immersed in Him again, but in a new way. You will be consecrated to Christ as priests of the new covenant He established. He is not taking you out of the world, but He is removing you from belonging to the world.”

When the men were ordained deacons, a bishop presented them with the Book of the Gospels. “This instruction is good to recall today since the first duty of the priest is to teach the Word of God,” the bishop said.

“You are also consecrated today to celebrate the divine mysteries,” he added. “You will carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest, the office of sanctifying, through your celebration of the sacraments.”

Bishop Rhoades spoke of three of the seven sacraments — Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist.

In regards to Reconciliation, the bishop said, “How awesome and humbling it is to act in the person of Christ in this sacrament of mercy! The grace of God’s mercy will flow from you to the penitent when you say: ‘I absolve you from your sins.’”

“I urge you to have great care for the souls of those who come to you in Confession, making it easier, not harder, for them to meet Jesus in this sacrament,” the bishop advised the elect. “May you always be merciful priests in imitation of the One whom the letter to the Hebrews calls the merciful and compassionate high priest.”

Teaching about the Anointing of the Sick, Bishop Rhoades said, “I pray that you will give witness to Our Lord’s kindness toward the sick and the suffering. Think about how much time Jesus devoted to the sick and suffering during His public ministry. How important it is for priests of Jesus Christ to do the same, bringing them Our Lord’s healing, compassion and comfort.”

The summit of priestly life and ministry is the Holy Eucharist. The great miracle of love, which is the Holy Eucharist, is effected through the hands of the priest, the bishop said.

“Royce, Jonathan, Matt and Bill, the high point of your ministry, as every priest here can attest, will be when you say the words of Jesus, ‘This is my body which is give up for you. … This is the chalice of my blood which is poured out for you. …’”

The bishop continued, “After you are ordained, I will present you with the paten and chalice with the bread and wine and say to each of you: ‘Receive the oblation 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.’ To be men of the Eucharist is not just to celebrate Mass, but to live the Mass, to imitate what you celebrate.”

The bishop addressed the elect: “Royce, Jonathan, Matt and Bill, you are ordained today not for yourselves, but for the Church, for the people you are called to lead to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Like the Good Shepherd, may you tend God’s people with care! Like the Good Shepherd, go after, seek, the lost sheep!”

“Don’t stay in the rectory or the sacristy,” Bishop Rhoades emphasized. “Go out, especially to those who have strayed from the flock and to those who have never even been part of the flock! The Church needs all of us, as Pope Francis says, to be missionary disciples and that includes priests.”

The bishop emphasized that the mission of the priest only bears fruit by the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. “We must be united in deep friendship with the Lord. My sons, you will only be living icons of the Good Shepherd if you dwell in His love. If you pray every day, you will grow in the joy of friendship with the Lord. Always bring to Him your struggles and your joys, your successes and your failures. He will watch over you and give you strength!”

New priests ordained

After the homily, the elect 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 elect knelt before Bishop Rhoades who laid hands on each of their heads in accordance with the apostolic tradition, and later the entire college of priests did the same. Then, with the elect kneeling before him, Bishop Rhoades prayed the Prayer of Ordination which is the essential form of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Then the newly ordained priests were vested with the stole and chasuble, signs of the priestly office, after which Bishop Rhoades anointed the new priests’ palms with Chrism, a consecrated and perfumed oil that symbolizes wisdom and strength.

Family members — Karen Gregerson, Margaret Meininger, Nola Norton and Sue Soberalski brought forward the gifts of the people to Bishop Rhoades. 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 giving the newly ordained priests the fraternal kiss of peace and welcoming them to the diocesan presbyterate. Then the entire presbyterate, along with the visiting clergy, gave the fraternal kiss of peace to the newly ordained.

Bountiful blessings

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Rhoades asked for a blessing from the new priests.

Newly ordained Father Gregerson told Today’s Catholic, “For me, my ordination is a complete gift of myself to the Lord, the most perfect imitation of Him that I can offer. It is a turning over of all that I am, all that He has made me to be, all that I am capable of doing, and all that I am still, because of my own weakness, unable to do.”

“I have given myself to serve as a priest because, first and foremost, I want to imitate Christ, who poured Himself out becoming completely obedient to the Father,” Father Gregerson said. “My hope as a newly ordained priest is that I will be faithful to that calling, always striving to grow in imitation of Christ, never holding back any part of myself, but always placing everything that I have and am at the disposition of Christ and His Church.”

Father Jonathan Norton noted, “Ordination day for me is just to be able to see finally the fulfillment of God’s will in my life. Just to see all the pieces finally starting to come together and what my vocation is. And to the opportunity to give my life for love of Him and love of the Church.”

“I hope that in my Priesthood I’ll be able to completely trust in Him in all things and just to be an image of God for all, especially reflecting His mercy and His love to all people and just depending completely on the image of God the Father,” he said.

Father Matthew Soberalski said, “This ordination means a lot to me. It’s a great joy. I’m extremely excited to begin. I really look forward to serving and really continuing to pour myself out, like we get to pour ourselves out today on this altar. I’m extremely excited and anxious to begin and really looking forward to serving the people and loving them.”

And Father William Meininger said, “Ordination day to me is one of the most humbling days of my life. And it’s the day I get to complete the laying down of my life for God’s Church and His people.”

“I consider it to be sort of the end of a rather short portion of my journey and hopefully the beginning of long and wonderful, joyous journey for the rest of my life,” he added. “I hope to bring the Gospel and share the Love of Jesus with other people and I’m most excited to be ordained in this year of mercy — such a beautiful thing. I hope to bring the love and mercy of Jesus to those that I encounter.”

Mary Keefer, retired principal of Bishop Luers High School, attended in support of two graduates, Father Gregerson and Father Norton. “Two fine, fine men,” Keefer said. “Just the joy and to watch their moms, their dads, it is such an honor to have a child (who becomes a priest), and I was just their principal and I’m so honored. The Church is very lucky to have these two young men.”

Deborah Andrews, member of the Serra Club of Fort Wayne, volunteered at the ordination and said, “Ordination is exciting but to have four is just awesome. It allows me to witness to the power of prayer. People all over the world are praying for vocations. My heart is so full and joyful.”

Kay Cozad contributed to this story.

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