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In the world, but not of it: Archbishop Aquila ordains six men to the priesthood

Six men answered the call to priesthood on May 15 and were ordained the newest priests of the Archdiocese of Denver at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The six men ordained span four different seminaries and a variety of backgrounds. Fathers Tony Davis, John Stapleton and Sean Conroy all studied at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary; Father John Paul Almeida studied at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary; Father John Croghan studied at St. John XXIII Seminary in Boston; and Father Peter Srsich studied at Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Addressing the men during his homily, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila referred to the first reading of the Mass, taken from the Book of Jeremiah, and how it relates to God’s call for them to be priests.

“Note for yourselves what the Lord speaks to Jeremiah and the action of the Lord in Jeremiah’s life even before he is born,” Archbishop Aquila told the men. “I formed you. I knew you. I dedicated you. I appointed you. And those words are spoken to you today, my sons, that in this time in history, the Lord has called you to serve and he has chosen you.”

From L-R, Deacons John Paul Almeida, Sean Conroy, John Croghan, Anthony Davis, John Stapleton IV and Peter Srsich stand before the congregation during their ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on May 15, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Having trust and confidence in God the Father and in Jesus Christ is essential, he told them, especially in the task of preaching and of carrying out the three munera of teaching, sanctifying and governing to act in the person of Christ. The archbishop also implored them to leave room for the Holy Spirit as they carry out their ministry.

“You will be configured to [Christ] by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the words and actions that you speak must always be conformed to Jesus Christ,” he said.

Prayer must also remain at the heart of their priesthood, Archbishop Aquila told the new priests.

“That does not mean that you spend 24/7 in prayer, but rather you give your heart to the Lord,” he said. “You open your heart up to Lord. And whether you are in the car or in front of the Eucharist, you can always be praying to the Lord and having an open heart to the Lord and having confidence that He will provide you with the words to speak.”

As the men prepare to begin their ministry as priests, Archbishop Aquila told them that while the world which they are being sent into will challenge them, they are called to rise above these challenges and remain faithful to Jesus Christ.

“My beloved sons, I am not going to paint a false picture of the world today or the Church today,” the archbishop said. “Things are in turmoil. We are living, as Pope Francis has stated, not at the end of an era, but in a change of an age. People have rejected Christ, people have rejected God, and people, including priests and bishops within the Church, have turned away from God and listening to his voice with much of what they propose.

“We are called to be those who are faithful to Jesus Christ, who belong to Christ,” he continued. “Jesus reminds us they do not belong to the world anymore than I belong to the world. And yes, the father loved the world to send his only son into the world for the gift of salvation. And you must have the same love for the world and for all humanity. But that does not mean that you become the world.”

Father Sean Conroy lies prostrate during his ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on May 15, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

Once more, emphasizing the centrality of Christ in the priesthood, the archbishop implored the men to never forget where the Sacraments come from, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, and reminded them to carry out their ministry with the utmost compassion and mercy.

“It is the risen Christ himself, and his risen body, who makes himself present in the ministry of priests,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It is his power and authority that you exercise and you must have confidence in that as you consecrate the Eucharist to become his body, blood, soul and divinity, as you forgive sins in hearing confession. Always remember in confession the importance of compassion, of mercy and also charity in proclaiming the truth and gently guiding people to the truth of Christ and to repentance. Yelling and screaming at people is not going to change their hearts; only inviting them into that deeper encounter with Jesus Christ changes their hearts.”

The new priests, as all Christians, are called to be in the world but not of it, and the archbishop offered parting words of encouragement and solace as the six are sent out into a world where they will be “hated,” just as Christ said.

“Just as Jesus speaks, ‘as you sent me into the world, I sent them into the world,’ you, my sons, are sent into the world. You are not sent into a cell. You are not sent into your rectory, but you are sent into the world to invite the world to come to know the love of Jesus Christ. And I assure you, in today’s world, you will be hated. You will hear people say things to you that you never expect. But there are also those who, when they see the collar, are immediately moved and come to you who desire to come to know Christ and who want to know Christ, and we must be courageous to offer that gift,” he concluded.

Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.
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