History was made when three Holy Name Province friars were ordained to the priesthood at a Mass of Presbyteral Ordination last month at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
More than 250 friars, family members, friends and parishioners were on hand at the April 29 Mass to witness James Bernard, OFM, Steven Kuehn, OFM, and Aaron Richardson, OFM, become the Province’s last ordination class before HNP and the other US-6 provinces unite in October to form a new coast-to-coast Franciscan province. The Mass was also live-streamed and watched by nearly 50 viewers.
The next class of solemnly professed friars pursuing ordination – no matter the US-6 province through which they entered the Order – will be ordained under the new U.S. Franciscan province. The historic nature of the Mass was not lost on the participants or the newly-ordained HNP friars.
“This marks a high point and historic moment for Holy Name Province, as these our brothers will be the last ordained under the HNP banner to serve God’s people,” Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial Minister, said during his remarks at the ordination Mass.
Turning toward the friars, who were seated across the altar, Kevin added, “But you will also serve well in the province ahead. Please always live, and give thanks to, the legacy you have received, but also build the future, be filled with hope, be filled with optimism, give of yourself to all of your sisters and brothers, and build us a better Church and a better world.”
James, whose first assignment as an ordained priest will be at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Butler, New Jersey, called the history-making moment very humbling, knowing that the trio was among dozens of HNP friars who were ordained before them at St. Camillus over the last half-century, and that they would be the last ordained under the legacy Province.
“A few days before ordination, one of the friars at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston who was in the first class ordained at St. Camillus, shared some photos with me of his ordination day. As it turned out, I was sitting in the same seat he sat in 50 years ago,” said James.
It wasn’t until Brian Jordan, OFM, pastor of St. Camillus, in his remarks connected the present and past, that the historical significance sunk in with Steven.
“I hadn’t given it much thought, but when he mentioned it, a lot of friars later told me they were ordained at St. Camillus. Being the last HNP class means we are turning the page to a new chapter in our Franciscan history. That brings a combined sadness and excitement for many,” said Steven, who is excited about his new assignment at St. Bonaventure University, which is a do-over of sorts because his internship year at SBU was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With all restrictions lifted, he looks forward to experiencing the energy of the students and pursuing creative opportunities that campus ministry provides.
The Mass was celebrated by His Eminence Roberto Gonzales, OFM, archbishop of Puerto Rico. During his homily, he made reference to the responsorial psalm.
“In a special way, we greet our beloved brother friars. Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. Our responsorial psalm reminds us that praising and loving God, and serving and loving others, is the most important mission of our lives,” the archbishop said.
“A priest should strive to be a living icon of Jesus’ love – love with a capital L. For us, this involves a permanent process of discernment, discipline and detachment. This is why St. Francis advised his followers, ‘You cannot abandon all your possessions, but at least you can change your attitude about them.’ All ‘getting’ separates you from others. All ‘giving’ unites you to others,” Archbishop Gonzales said.
“Pope Francis would say it in the following way: ‘Serve with the smell of the sheep.’ In today’s world, pastoral and ministerial actions require renewed efforts, creativity, mercy, tenderness and joy to be more effective, creative and proactive in encountering people where they are, especially the poorest among us,” the archbishop continued. “Engaging the world in this spirit will be your life’s work, your life’s mission as priests, especially in the Franciscan tradition. Undertake this mission carefully and with compassion and patience, with the docility and humility of the dove, and the intelligence and wisdom of the serpent,” he said.
Archbishop Gonzales concluded his homily: “James, Steven and Aaron, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you. May God keep you strong in faith and generous in love, courageous for the glory of the kingdom of the reign of God, and for the sake of God’s holy people.”
The Mass was rich in Franciscan tradition and ritual – including the litany of saints with the friars lying prostrate and face-down on the altar; the laying of hands by ordained friars on the newly ordained; the fraternal embrace by all friars in attendance, and the presentation of the priestly robe and stole to the three new priests.
Kevin, Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, and Joseph Rozansky, OFM, sat on the altar and played various roles during the Mass. The first reading (Acts 10:37-43) was presented by Paula Hunt, pastoral associate at Ss. Columba-Brigid in Buffalo, New York, who Aaron knew when he spent a summer internship there in 2019, and who is now assigned in pastoral ministry. The second reading (1 Pt 5:1-4) was presented by Angel Vásquez, OFM, and the Gospel (Jn 15:9-17) was read by Maxwell Klug, OFM, a member of the Province of the Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary.
A group of postulants assisted the archbishop – among them Jason Peterson, Richard Gaunt, Dan Rey, and Ricky Ferrer. Simply professed friars Joshua Richter, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, and Jimmy Kernan, OFM, also assisted on the altar. Thomas Gallagher, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street in New York City, was master of ceremonies. The music was provided by the St. Camillus choir and director Christian Leaños.
The newly ordained friars joined the archbishop on the altar to concelebrate during the consecration, and greeted their family members seated in the front pews during the sign of peace. They distributed communion for the first time as ordained priests.
Archbishop Gonzales, who also made history by being the last prelate to ordain HNP friars, acknowledged the presence of Vincent Cushing, OFM, who was bound to a wheelchair at the side of the altar. He asked the three friars to approach Vincent so he could lay hands on them. Kevin called it a wonderful fraternal gesture and respect for the elder friar, who taught many friars in formation during his 60 years as an ordained priest.
All of the ordained friars in attendance were provided with concelebration stoles that Russel Murray, OFM, rediscovered at Holy Name College. But Brian reminded the friars that they had to be returned after the Mass.
The ordination Mass was followed by a reception in the Camilla Room, where the local Secular Franciscan Order set up and served the lunch.
Kevin, who extended gratitude to everyone involved in the lives and formation of James, Steven and Aaron, said the ordination was a grand reminder of the call to service, humility, and what God wants and expects of people who serve. “We are never better than those we serve. We are privileged to serve God’s people,” he said.
The provincial minister offered words of thanksgiving – “to Jim, Aaron and Steve, thank you personally for your many gifts and willingness to serve, and for the courage you have to enter into ministry at this time. As Friars Minor, you enter a world that is divided, a Church that has known polarization,” continued Kevin. “You go as builders of peace, reconcilers, and healers. Go with hope, and always please remember to give thanks to God and thanks to the brothers who stand with you. This will give you the support, along with your prayer, to be men of faith, contemplation, and great service.”
Aaron is delighted to be returning to Ss. Columba-Brigid Church in Buffalo. “The parish was recently placed in a ‘cluster’ of parishes which has a diocesan priest as the pastor and one of our friars as a parochial vicar. This will allow us to be connected to the sacramental life of the parish, while also giving us the freedom and flexibility to discern ministries that we, as a friar community, would like to commit ourselves and our energies,” Aaron said. “I am excited as we are beginning to come together as a fresh fraternity, thinking very intentionally about how we can integrate our fraternal and ministerial lives and offer the community a witness of Gospel living.”
Steven said ordination was a day filled with emotion and meaning. “It was awesome doing this alongside Aaron and Jim, guys who I have lived with the past several years. The fraternal aspect was pretty cool, and having family and friends – and God’s help and guidance – throughout this journey was a blessing,” said Steven, who admitted that he may have had a slight edge in the number of guests in attendance because he hails from Maryland.
“On ordination day, it was very special to be surrounded by my brother friars, family and friends who journeyed with us over many years, and supported us with their wisdom, presence, and prayers. It was also special to share the day with two very good and very holy brothers, Steve and Aaron, and their beautiful families,” said James. “I am filled with gratitude to Almighty God and to my brother friars to have the opportunity to pursue my vocational call to be a Franciscan priest and to begin this new chapter in service to my sisters and brothers in Christ.”