CEDAR LAKE, Ind. – The smiles were covered by facemasks, and relatives and friends had to witness from afar. But although it upended the original date, location, and plans, not even the global pandemic could contain the jubilation, music, and celebration that filled Holy Name of Jesus Church at last month’s ordination Mass of Abraham Joseph, OFM.
“The most beautiful thing for me was the simplicity of the ordination. Since there were not a lot of distractions and logistics to think about, I was able to focus more on the spirituality of the sacrament,” Abraham said of the Mass that indoctrinated him to the priesthood on the morning of June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.
Although circumstances of the COVID-19 coronavirus prevented his family members, friends, and colleagues from attending in person, they were able to join the ordination Mass virtually because it was broadcast live on the Internet.
“The live stream was widely shared. People who never would have traveled for the event were able to watch the Mass and pray for me,” said Abraham, a Haitian immigrant who came to the United States in 2000, and eight years later received a degree in accounting from Monroe College in the Bronx, N.Y.
The ordination was originally scheduled to take place on May 24 at Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great Church in New York City, where Abraham had performed several ministerial duties during his 2017 to 2018 internship – which included liturgy preparation, adult religious education, administrative tasks, and work with Franciscan justice, peace and integrity of creation.
When it was clear that major changes would be required because of travel restrictions, social distancing and other guidelines brought on by the pandemic, the Mass was moved to the later date and 1,000 miles west to the town of Cedar Lake, Indiana – less than an hour’s drive from Chicago, where Abraham has lived since 2018.
“In April, it became obvious that traveling to New York City was not safe because of the coronavirus outbreak, so we decided to change the plans,” said Abraham. “Celebrating the Mass in Chicago also was not an option because the archdiocese had canceled all public liturgies.”
HNP Friar Contingent
Since one of the Franciscan US-6 provinces – Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary – is involved in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, Michael Surufka, OFM, administrator of the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, the seat of the diocese, suggested that they inquire whether Bishop Robert McClory would celebrate a small, private ordination Mass. The bishop agreed to officiate, setting the new plans into motion.
Several members of Holy Name Province stationed in Chicago were among the participants at Abraham’s ordination Mass – including Joseph Rozansky, OFM, guardian of St. Joseph Friary and assistant director of post-novitiate formation, Daniel Horan, OFM, director of post-novitiate priestly formation who served as the vesting priest, and Roberto Serrano, OFM, who served as deacon. Carlos Portillo, OFM, was among those who provided the music selections. Jerry Bleem, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, director of post-novitiate formation, presented the chalice and paten, and Michael Surufka served as host.
“It was wonderful for the Franciscan community of Chicago to gather in Indiana for a very socially distant liturgy,” said Dan. “I have had the privilege of living with Abraham for two years at Blessed Giles Friary in Hyde Park and of having him as a student in several classes. I was honored to participate in the ordination liturgy as the friar who vested our brother in the stole and chasuble, the vestments of the ministerial priesthood. While an ordination in the middle of a pandemic was definitely unusual, it was a joyful and blessed experience to be sure!”
At present, Abraham is doing a remote field practicum – a supervised practical application – at the Health Justice Project. The internship is being done completely online, according to the newly ordained friar, who explained that it involves a collaboration between the law, medical and social work schools to develop a holistic approach to social service.
Abraham is looking forward to continuing his studies at Loyola University for a master’s degree in social work. “This will give me the skill set and credentials that are important for serving at the Province’s outreach ministries, such as St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, and Create, Inc., and the St. Francis Residences in New York City,” he said.
Depending on his academic schedule, Abraham also plans to help with sacramental ministry at Holy Name of Jesus Church, where he was ordained, and St. Peter’s in the Loop in downtown Chicago.
Abraham professed his first vows as a Franciscan in August 2014 in Burlington, Wisconsin, where he spent one year in the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate. He made his solemn profession in 2018, and in May 2019 was ordained to the transitional diaconate.
He attended Catholic Theological Union in Chicago for graduate studies and completed his master of divinity degree in May of this year. Abraham hopes to complete his master’s degree in social work in May 2021.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communication for Holy Name Province.
- “Abraham Joseph Professes Solemn Vows” — Sept. 17, 2018, HNP Today
- “Create Opens New Facility with Ribbon Cutting” – Oct. 17, 2018, HNP Today
- “Abraham Joseph Professes Simple Vows in Wisconsin” — Aug. 5, 2014, HNP Today
- Service to the Poor webpage of HNP.org
- Feast of St. Anthony reflections by HNP friars