By Peter Finney Jr.
For the four men ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New Orleans June 2 at St. Louis Cathedral, the Mass of Ordination – a mere, two-hour snippet of their lives – transformed them in ways they could not have imagined.
Each of the new priests – Fathers Dominic Arcuri, Thien Nguyen, Vincent Nguyen and Cletus Orji – expressed both awe and humility at being called to the altar.
Father Arcuri, 69, was the elder statesman, who jokingly acknowledged he was the only seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary to be receiving a Social Security check each month.
Buoyed by late wife
As a widower, Father Arcuri, a former banker in LaPlace, said he felt deeply the presence of his late wife Tru as he lay prostrate before the altar for the Litany of the Saints.
“Absolutely,” said Father Arcuri, who had served for 17 years as a permanent deacon. “She’s part of the reason that I’m where I am. She confirmed my vocation, and I know she was with me the whole way, through my
formation up to the altar today, and will continue to be with me. I know she will.”
As Archbishop Gregory Aymond reminded the four priest ordinands that they were called to bring healing to people through the sacrament of reconciliation and the sacrament of the sick, the words deeply touched Father
Arcuri, who said he relied on God and the prayers and support of family and friends to deal with the murders of his parents in 1997 and the death of his wife.
Can share from his soul
Father Arcuri hopes those life experiences will make him an approachable, caring priest.
Asked what he was most looking forward to in his priestly ministry, Father Arcuri said, “People who are hurting, for whatever reason. They might be hurting physically, mentally, spiritually. I hope they seek me out, and I hope that I can recognize that there is a need and seek them out and try to bring Christ’s love to them.”
Am I worthy?
Father Vincent Nguyen echoed Archbishop Aymond’s words in the homily by saying, “I really feel that I am not worthy, but the Lord has called me and I have answered yes to him.”
“This is my very first day of my priestly ministry, so I am looking forward to lifting up our hearts to the Lord with the people of God, especially my first parish, St. Ann Church (in Metairie).”
Lifting up the people of God
Father Orji, a native of Nigeria, said his family, who could not come to New Orleans for his ordination, watched the Mass on the internet. He said he felt God’s presence particularly when he prostrated himself before the altar.
“It’s like I poured out my life for the people of God – that’s why I was there,” Father Orji said. “I was asking God that as he raises me up, let him raise me up to be able to carry up the people of God, especially those who have fallen away from the church, especially those who consider themselves not worthy of being in the church. God is calling everybody. All of us are his children, and he is calling all of us back to himself, regardless of what we have done. He still wants us back. I sincerely want to be an instrument of God’s mercy to the people of God.”
Sacred chrism for the hands
Father Thien Nguyen said as he extended his hands to Archbishop Aymond, who then anointed his palms with sacred chrism, “I felt consecrated to the Lord. I felt very good. It has been a great blessing to be ordained to the priesthood.”
Archbishop Aymond urged the new priests to follow Pope Francis’ example and prayerfully prepare to preach God’s word at Mass.
Quoting Pope Francis, Archbishop Aymond said, “A preacher who does not prepare is not being responsible with the gifts that God has given to him. Speak in a simple way; speak to the hearts of people.”
A priest who wants to feed his flock, Archbishop Aymond
said, will take special care with the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.
“In the Eucharist, it is a privilege to say, ‘This is my body and this is my blood,’” Archbishop Aymond said. “And then it is the body and blood of the Lord Jesus that you give to the people as food for their journey. You will feed the flock. You will also feed the flock in the sacrament of reconciliation as you will give God’s mercy. God’s mercy will come through you as food for the journey for those who have sinned and want to be reconciled in your ministry of hearing confessions. Always be merciful, always be patient.”
Shepherd your people
He also asked the priests to model their priesthood on Christ the Good Shepherd.
“Just as the Good Shepherd led the flock in a humble way, you will lead God’s people,” he said. “You will walk with them like brothers. Do not walk in front of them. Do not walk behind them. You will walk with them in the journey of life, and you will be called by God to find those who are lost. I beg you, never give up on anyone. Jesus didn’t walk away from them. Be patient. Show them the love and the acceptance of our God in order to do all of this.”
He asked the priests not to be afraid in continuing their journey of “swimming against the tide.”
“Hear Jesus say, ‘Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be not afraid. You are led by the Spirit,’” Archbishop Aymond said. “And so, today, we as family and friends and those who love you say to you, ‘Please swim against the tide to do great things for God.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.