Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Calling it a “significant moment” in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Barry C. Knestout ordained five priests Saturday, June 1, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond.
The ordained are: Fathers Tochi Iwuji, Christopher Masla, Dan Molochko, Kyle O’Connor and Cassidy Stinson.
The group is the largest ordination class since May 13, 1989, when Bishop Walter F. Sullivan ordained eight priests.
Bishop Knestout began his homily by crediting “the hard work and prayer” of those who had gone before him, adding he could “take a victory lap” because of what they had done.
“I think in a special way of my predecessor, Bishop DiLorenzo, under whom these men first began their formation and studies of the priesthood,” he said.
Noting that the number five, unlike three, seven and 10, appeared infrequently in Scripture and Church teaching, the bishop said that there were five intentions in the Ordination Rite, each of which could bring the priest joy and sorrow.
The first intention is a commitment.
“This servant-leadership is a cause of joy in that through this service we imitate our Lord and guide God’s people to salvation,” Bishop Knestout said, adding that with servant-leadership “often comes a call to share in often comes a call to share in Christ’s humiliation and his experience of suffering.”
The joy found in the proclamation of the Word — the second intention — is “in teaching and seeing enlightenment that comes from faith and the growing knowledge of the teachings of Christ,” Bishop Knestout said.
He continued, “The prophetic role is one of suffering for the sake of the Word, that it be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.”
Bishop Knestout said the joy found in third intention — celebrating the sacraments — comes in “lifting the burden of sin from God’s people and nourishing them with the Body and Blood of Our Lord.”
He said that celebrating the sacraments also requires the priest to be willing “to carry the burden or effects of sin for others – to walk with and for others in their suffering.”
The bishop explained that the joy derived from the fourth intention — to pray without ceasing — is our “encounter with the living God, who comforts us, encourages us and accompanies us in the Holy Spirit.”
But he noted it can become “dry” and lack “spontaneity.”
“In these times our prayer is like Christ’s prayer during his passion, where he seeks strength and peace in a time of agony and anxiety,” Bishop Knestout said of the sorrow one might experience.
The final intention is “one of total consecration and self-gift offered to the Father and to the People of God.”
“There is sorrow and suffering in choosing the offer one’s own will to act in communion with another,” the bishop said. “Yet there is joy in letting go and freedom in that total self-gift.”
He concluded his homily by instructing those to be ordained: “So now we pray together, accompanied by the prayers of all God’s people, joined with the Angels and Saints in the litany that follows. We pray for you and with you five men. That the Holy Spirit grant you every priestly gift and blessing. Even as you offer yourselves in sacrifice, which is necessarily accompanied by the sorrow of loss, so also, you express and are accompanied by joy, for you are sustained and graced by the Holy Spirit to assist you and make your words, deeds and prayer, authoritative, effective and life giving.”
At the beginning of Mass, Bishop Knestout asked the standing-room congregation of more than 800 people to keep in prayer “all those affected by what has become all too horrifically common — the tragic shootings that occurred in Virginia Beach just yesterday afternoon.”
“Many of the priests and seminarians of this diocese have served at one time or another in or near Virginian Beach. Our hearts and prayers are with all those who live and work there,” the bishop said.