As those about to be ordained to the priesthood prostrate themselves in an act of humble prayer and surrender to God, Bishop Knestout and the congregation chant the Litany of Saints.

Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

More than 900 people filled the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, Saturday, June 2, to celebrate the ordination of Fathers John Baab, James O’Reilly, and Nicholas Redmond as priests for the Diocese of Richmond — the first three priests ever ordained by Bishop Barry C. Knestout.

In his homily, delivered from the cathedra (his chair in the cathedral), the bishop drew upon the day’s readings — Jeremiah 1:4-9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-20 and John 15:9-17, upon the words of the Rite of Ordination, and of recent popes in instructing the men about the call they have answered.

“In priesthood you are called into that Paschal Mystery in a real way,” he said. “There is need to abide in God’s love, in the Paschal Mystery, to be immersed in it, to be saturated by it, to be convinced of it and to yearn to share it with others.”

Quoting the Rite of Ordination, Bishop Knestout said, “They are to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd in his ministry, which is to make his own body, the Church, grow into the people of God, a holy temple.”

The bishop said that St. Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have emphasized the threefold roles of the priest while promoting the New Evangelization, noting that the current pope has made a specific request of bishops and priests — asking them to go to the periphery, immerse themselves in people’s lives, encounter, accompany and “to send forth God’s people to transform the world according to the Gospel.”

“To do this effectively, one must have the smell of the sheep, to know them, and to allow God’s people to know you,” Bishop Knestout said in reference to Pope Francis’ 2013 Chrism Mass instruction to priests and bishops. “In this way, God’s people will not only see in you an example of Christ’s holiness, and hear in your words his teaching, but they will also recognize in you the voice and the example of the shepherd, and follow our Lord to the green pastures and fresh waters of God’s kingdom.”

As part of the Rite of Ordination, Bishop Barry C. Knestout anoints the hands of Father James O’Reilly with holy chrism, symbolizing the priest’s distinctive participation in Christ’s priesthood. (Photos/Billy Nguyen)

Father Daniel Kelly, left, a retired priest of the Diocese of Richmond, lays hands on Father Nicholas Redmond, while Father James Curran, pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Norfolk, does the same on Father James O’Reilly. The laying on of hands by the priests signifies incorporation of the newly ordained into the presbyterate.

Addressing the men as “brothers,” the bishop told them to focus on the Good Shepherd.

“He seeks out the lost sheep, reconciles, heals, nourishes in word and sacrament and strengthens in the Spirit of encouragement — in service to God’s people,” he said.

Father Robert Brownell, a retired priest of the Diocese of Richmond, vests Father John Baab during the Rite of Ordination.

Father James O’Reilly, facing camera, exchanges the fraternal kiss of peace with Father Nicholas Redmond.

Noting that their lives as priests are those of witness, sacrifice and service, Bishop Knestout concluded, “Remain in God’s love. Remain immersed in, and close to, the Word, to the sacraments and to the Shepherd, and you will bear priestly fruit — fruit that will last, that will lead you and God’s people to eternal life.”