Dozens of seminarians from across the country marked the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux — the saint known for “her little way” — taking a small step with extraordinary love.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York ordained the 39 young men to the diaconate Oct. 1 at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. It’s their final formal step before ordination to the priesthood, God-willing, next summer.
Dan Connealy, one of two seminarians from the Phoenix Diocese studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, was among the fold. He told The Catholic Sun that he was calm before Mass began, but was moved as early as the opening procession. The beauty of the basilica he had seen so many times before spoke to him anew.
“I thought of all the successors of Peter buried below in the crypt and what a great honor it was that I would be ordained over the bones of Peter and so many his successors,” Dcn. Connealy said.
During the ordination, the new deacons promised to live a life of prayer, celibacy and obedience to their diocesan bishop.
“The questions seemed to come so quickly and even though I’d been preparing for six years in seminary it was a little overwhelming,” Connealy said. “However, I realized as well that I had not approached ordination on my own, but as a man of the Church with the Church. These promises I made are not promises I will carry out on my own but by the grace of God.”
Some 15 members of Dcn. Connealy’s family were in Rome for the occasion. So were several priests from the Diocese of Phoenix including Fr. Kevin Grimditch. The two studied in Rome together for the two years before Fr. Grimditch’s ordination a year ago. It was Fr. Grimditch who vested Dcn. Connealy with the diaconal stole and dalmatic.
As part of the ordination rite, Cardinal Dolan placed the Book of the Gospels in the hands of each candidate being ordained. While knelt in front of him at the altar, the cardinal instructed them, from the Rite of Ordination, to “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
In his homily, whose highlights were provided to the media, Cardinal Dolan spoke to those about to be ordained about the paradoxes of the Christian faith, which are manifested in the Ordination Rite itself.
“You were called forth and were said to be found worthy, and yet we began our prayer with an acknowledgment to God of our sinfulness. You come here freely and yet will make a promise of obedience to your Ordinary. You are raised up to serve at the altar, yet in a moment you will lie down prostrate in a symbol of submission to the supplication to the saints on your behalf.”
Cardinal Dolan continued that this is all perfectly fitting in the Basilica dedicated to the Apostle Peter, whose own martyrdom, on a cross upside down, allowed him more clearly to see right side up the Jesus whose love he had come to imitate.
The newly-ordained deacon called it a blessing to be able tot live so close to the tombs of so many saints and see the vibrancy of the many ways holy men and women have lived out the faith.
“Being in Rome has really drawn that out for me and made me aware of the wonderful charisms in the Church,” Dcn. Connealy said. “I have also been able to meet seminarians and young religious from all over the world. It’s so good to be united in prayer with people from all over who are doing their best to live out their vocation of holiness. It really helps you to understand that you are not alone and even people I may not see again for many years will be praying for me and that I can pray for them.”