NEW YORK — A large number of Holy Name Province friars gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Church here two weeks ago to celebrate the ordination of five of their brothers as priests. Scott Brookbank, OFM, Zachary Elliott, OFM, Julian Jagudilla, OFM, Gonzalo De Jesus Torres Acosta, OFM, and Christopher VanHaight, OFM, received the laying on of hands from Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., at the 11 a.m. Mass on May 24.
Hundreds of others — families, friends, and people with whom the new priests had ministered during their years of formation — participated in the lively liturgy. This is the largest group of Holy Name Province friars ordained to the priesthood in almost two decades.
John O’Connor, OFM, Provincial Minister, Dominic Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar, and Francis Di Spigno, OFM, director of post-novitiate formation, concelebrated the Mass with Cardinal McCarrick and the newly-ordained friars. Christopher Coccia, OFM, served as deacon and James Sabak, OFM, as master of ceremonies. Kevin McGoff, OFM, directed the music. Assisting in various ministries at the altar were Antonio Cornier, OFM, Mario Gomez, OFM, Joseph Macaluso, OFM, Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, Percy Osorio, OFM, and Edgardo Zea-Laura, OFM.
The first reading was proclaimed in Tagalog, and the second reading in Spanish, reflecting the diverse cultural origins of the brothers in the ordination class. Cardinal McCarrick incorporated Spanish in his homily and in the ordination prayers for Gonzalo. The cardinal remarked that he was especially delighted to preside at this occasion, as it marked the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Remembering Family, Thanking Friars
The five new priests remembered their families. In a prepared statement, they said: “The call to presbyteral ordination is neither received nor is it accepted in isolation. The journey to this moment began with our families. We are forever grateful to our parents, living and deceased, who fulfilled the promises they made on our behalf at our baptisms and formed us in the faith of the Church.”
They also thanked the friars and parishioners of St. Francis for their hospitality and warmth.
Christopher later offered this recollection of the ordination. “Reflecting on my ordination to the priesthood, I cannot help but look back at my life and go over the often twisting path that led to that day.”
He told of first considering the priesthood while a student at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “To make a long story short, I looked at a number of religious communities, but there was something about Holy Name Province that felt right. It was a combination of their dedication to fraternal living and their diversity of ministries that first attracted me.”
To Live a Life of Service
Julian said he was called to the ministry to live a life of service.
“The first motivating factor is service to God’s people, the Church, in many and different ways,” he said “It was an attraction to God’s people that led me to think of fraternity. Fraternity in the Franciscan sense means relationship. Hence, it was my desire to serve that drew me to be in relationship with God’s people.”
Carolyn Croke, administrative coordinator for the Province’s Franciscan vocation ministry, attended the ordination and found it very moving.
“I was struck by the pure joy exhibited not only by the five men being ordained and their family members and friends, but also by the many Franciscan friars who shared in the celebration,” she said.
Julian, a native of the Philippines, summed up the day this way: “What I found the most meaningful during the ordination was the imposition of the hands. It was so moving that the friars laid their hands on us and prayed over us. Personally, what moved me the most during the imposition of the hands was when one of the friars whispered in his prayers, ‘You will be good.’ I think that was a tremendous manifestation of trust, fraternal love and support.”
Many friars who participated in the May 24 service attended a reception the evening before at the friary on West 31st Street.
—Wendy Healy is a freelance writer specializing in religious communities who contributes frequently to HNP Today.