NEW YORK — Last week, surrounded by friars, friends and family members at a celebration that highlighted the importance of mercy, Michael Reyes, OFM, was ordained to the priesthood by the archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Roberto González, OFM, celebrated the rite of presbyteral ordination at a morning Mass on Jan. 16 at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street, the ministry where Michael got to know the friars.
The following day, Michael celebrated his first Mass at the same church. “I am grateful,” he said afterward, “and am now looking forward to my first assignment.”
“You begin your priestly ministry during the Jubilee Year of Mercy here in New York City,” said Roberto in his homily. “A priest should be an icon of mercy. Walking the path of mercy is to live according to mercy in communion with all creatures. As you begin your priestly ministry during the Jubilee Year of Mercy here in New York City, become an icon of mercy so that you may be an instrument of peace.”
“The Church’s credibility is seen by how she shows mercy and love,” added Robert, a native of New Jersey who in 2013 marked his 25th anniversary as a bishop. “Recently our Minister General, the successor of St. Francis, said in his Christmas letter, ‘We have no choice, brothers. Mercy is in our DNA. Walking the path of mercy is to live according to mercy in communion with all creatures.’”
“Without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile,” concluded the archbishop. “St. Francis applied this to our Order.”
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, concelebrated the Mass with Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, the Province’s secretary for formation and studies, and Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of post-novitiate formation. Serving as deacon was Christopher Coccia, OFM, and as masters of ceremonies were Lawrence Ford, OFM, and Timothy Shreenan, OFM. Kevin thanked Roberto and the family and the friars who have helped Michael as a friar and with his theological studies, saying “This indeed is a great day for Michael, our brother, and for all of us gathered here.”
Mercy and Gratitude
Michael said the journey that culminated in his ordination was not one that he made on his own. “I am blessed to have journeyed with my brothers, my family, my friends and the wonderful people of God who I had worked with. All of this was represented in the liturgy.”
“One of the meaningful parts of the ordination, for me, was the imposition of hands. I was moved when my brothers laid their hands on my head and prayed over me,” Michael added. “I was especially moved when some of the friars whispered words of encouragement and affection in their prayers, like ‘we are here for you’ or ‘you will be good.’ For me, it is a wonderful expression of trust, support and fraternal love.”
Michael, 40, said several people have had a strong impact on him.
“David Convertino, OFM, who vested me, was my first guardian when I entered the Province and lived at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. He taught me the importance of fraternity, and loving your brothers and finding the ‘Christ’ in all the people you encounter.”
“One of the lectors at Mass was Robert Lentz, OFM, my mentor, art teacher and spiritual director. He encouraged me to use my gifts and talents to evangelize and to share God’s mercy and love to all.” Michael had spent a year as an apprentice with Robert, an iconographer.
The ordination program displayed on its cover an illustration created by Michael, titled “Christ Sophia: The Word of God,” that celebrates the profound harmony that can exist between eastern and western spiritualties, according to a description in the program. “Asian peoples who encounter the Gospel of Christ bring to it thousands of years of spiritual maturity from their own cultures. This joining of wisdoms, like the confluence of mighty rivers, is the work of Holy Wisdom, who has been at work in creation since the beginning of time.”
“Betsy Quinn, who gave the lay witness/testimony, is a long-time friend from St. Anthony Shrine,” Michael said. “We worked together with the Seniors at Arch Street Program when I was a postulant. She had been — and still is — an inspiration to me.”
“My family members were also present with a few roles, from serving as a lector to offering the gifts,” he added. “They were my first teachers of faith. Without them, I would not be here.”
Formation of New Priest
Michael, a native of the Philippines, entered the Province’s formation, or training program, in 2008, and professed his final vows as a friar in August 2014. He spent an internship year, from 2013 to 2014 in Wilmington, Del., serving at St. Paul’s Parish and working on his art.
After being ordained a transitional deacon in May 2015, he continued studies, while living at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., for a master of divinity degree at The Catholic University of America which he received last month.
Michael’s family migrated to the United States when he was 16 years old. Before joining the Franciscans, he worked for 10 years as a senior programmer/analyst for a Fortune 500 company in New York City. Michael became acquainted with the friars at St. Francis of Assisi Church, a block from his office in Manhattan, and was inspired by their ministry and fraternity, which, he said, gave him “a deeper understanding and sincere attraction toward St. Francis’ life, work and the Order.”
His Franciscan journey is now taking him to Tampa, Fla., where on Feb. 1 he will begin an assignment at Sacred Heart Parish. Photos of Michael’s ordination taken by Octavio Duran, OFM, were posted on the Facebook page of St. Anthony’s Guild.
Last January, two friars — Ross Chamberland, OFM, and Jeffery Jordan, OFM — were ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., in Boston.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. Information about becoming a friar can be found on BeAFranciscan.org.
- “Tampa Parish Celebrates Mass of Belonging” — Oct. 15, 2015, HNP Today
- “25 Years a Bishop” — Oct. 3, 2013, National Catholic Reporter
- “New Website Shares Information, Stories about Robert Lentz” — Sept. 26, 2014, HNP Today