HARTFORD – It was a day of joy and celebration as Archbishop Leonard P. Blair ordained seven seminarians to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Joseph on May 17. It was his first ordination of priests since becoming the Archbishop of Hartford in December.
The newly ordained priests are Fathers Carlos Arturo Castrillón, Marcel David Dawson, Ryan Matthew Lerner, Tuan Mai, Roberto Daniel McCarthy, Michael Ruminski and James Michael Sullivan.
“God has heard our prayer in providing pastors, good shepherds after the heart of Christ to guide and sanctify and shepherd his people,” said Archbishop Blair, as he welcomed the candidates along with their families, friends and the faithful from throughout the archdiocese, to the cathedral.
See Photo Gallery here: http://thecatholictranscript.zenfolio.com/p807914690
In his homily, Archbishop Blair acknowledged, “It is no secret that the church faces challenging times.” However, he urged that as Pope Francis tells us, “We cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings, but we need to move from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry.”
Reminding candidates that the church’s supreme law is the “salvation of souls,” he called them by name, and then said that they “must be willing to do whatever it takes, to go the extra mile, to make sacrifices and offer their prayers and indeed their very lives, if necessary, so that each and every person they meet will not perish from ignorance or sin, but they have eternal life from Christ – the only truth that saves us and sets us free.”
During the liturgy, the men were presented by Father Anthony J. Smith, director of vocations, as candidates for ordination.
In an expression of their total dependence on God, they prostrated themselves on the floor as the hundreds of faithful chanted the Litany of the Saints.
Archbishop Blair then imposed his hands upon the head of each of the men in silence. Then, the 90 priests in attendance did the same in a symbolic rite of fraternity and unity. The men were vested with the stole and chasuble, signs of the priestly ministry.
Next, the newly ordained were presented a paten with the bread and a chalice containing the wine mixed with water for the celebration of the Mass, as Archbishop Blair said: “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
Their first blessing at the end of Mass was conferred upon Archbishop Blair, who announced the assignments for the new priests: Father Castrillón, to Holy Family Parish in Enfield; Father Dawson, to St. Brigid/St. Helena Parish in West Hartford; Father Lerner, to St. Margaret Parish in Madison; Father Mai, who is from Vietnam, to St. Bridget/St. Bartholomew Parish in Manchester; Father McCarthy, to St. Bridget Parish in Cheshire; Father Ruminski to St. Joseph/St. Gabriel Parish in Windsor; and Father Sullivan, to the Torrington Cluster of churches.
“This is just so exciting, exhilarating,” said Father Sullivan, after his ordination. “I’m so excited to serve God, the church and the archbishop. I love my assignment, which is Torrington where I’ve served as a deacon for six years. I’m going back to the people I love so much.”
Father Sullivan, who was ordained a deacon in 2008, co-owned, with his brother John, Sullivan Brothers LLC, a church-, home- and business-restoration contracting business based in Waterbury. He was vested by Dominican Father Carleton Jones, who was in the seminary with him for two years in the 1980s when Father Sullivan was discerning a vocation to the Dominican Order.
Among family members attending was his mother, who expressed how “overwhelmed” she was by the occasion; his brother John; and his sister, Sister Veronica Mary Sullivan, who is a member of the Sisters of Life in the Bronx, N.Y. She was joined by the superior general and founder of the community, Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
“It’s just the most joyous, phenomenal day I could have hoped for,” said Father Dawson, whose parents came from Delaware for the occasion. “Without the people of God, their prayers and support, none of this would have been possible.”
Calling the day “magnificent,” his mother Mary added, “I’ve been waiting for this for years. He was working in banking and was a religious education teacher, but he wanted more; so God called him.”
Also reflective was Peggy Ruminski, who came from Spartanburg, S.C., for her son’s ordination.
“This is a big day for us and an answer to our prayers,” she said. “We’re so excited to see him come into his vocation and the fulfillment of his plans for his life.”
Father Lerner, a former nursing home administrator, appreciated the presence of his parents and twin sister, Megan Rafferty, who lives in Newport, R.I., and who has reminded him over the years that he told her in the seventh grade that he wanted to become a priest.
“It’s very emotional,” said Ms. Rafferty, who named her daughter, Ryan, after her brother. “It’s awe-inspiring to see my other half completely be on his path and his dream unfolding. I’ve never seen him so happy and at peace and focused in my life until he started seminary. It’s beautiful. My heart is just bursting.”
Her brother was also full of joy. “I’m feeling so grateful to God, for my family and all the friends who came today,” said Father Lerner.
“I’m so struck by how good God has been to me through all the people he has given to me in my life; and who he used to speak to me of his love,” he continued. “I just hope I will serve God’s people well and selflessly throughout the remainder of my priesthood.”
Father Mai, who was born in Vietnam and whose parents and other family members came from Omaha for the ordination, expressed similar sentiments. “It’s a grace of God for myself and the Archdiocese of Hartford,” he said. “The archbishop called us to serve God’s people, and we hope we bring people to Jesus and God,” he said.
“We’re very happy for him,” said his brother Kim. “Because of the calling of the Lord, he has finally become a priest.”
Also traveling far from their native country for the ordination were the proud Colombian parents of Father Castrillón.
“It’s a very special day,” said his mother with tears in her eyes. “We’ve been waiting for a long time. We’re very happy.”
Father Castrillón echoed the thought. “It’s been an amazing day,” he said. “It’s marvelous. I feel so excited, happy, glad. I love that my family is here and that God gave me this ministry.”
After seven years of priestly formation, Father McCarthy was looking forward to the future.
“It’s been a glorious morning and just a real blessing to be ordained in this cathedral with all the people of God here,” he said.
Added his mother Eleanor, exhaling with a long breath, “Oh, it’s been a long time, and I’m so glad it’s here. It’s wonderful, just wonderful.”
Principal concelebrants for the Mass were Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin, Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza, and Dominican Father Stephen C. Boguslawski, moderator of the curia.