Newly ordained priests Fr. Christopher Gossen (far left) and Fr. Peter Teresa McConnell, FHS (far right), join Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares after their Ordination Mass June 1 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Bishop Olmsted ordains Fr. Chris Gossen and Fr. Peter Teresa McConnell, FHS

On the weekend the Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension, two men embraced their unique calling to point others heavenward, too.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained Fr. Christopher Gossen and Fr. Peter Teresa McConnell, FHS, to the priesthood at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral June 1, launching their lifetime of ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix.

Within the following 24 hours, the freshmen priests concelebrated the Eucharist alongside their bishops and more than 60 brother priests from as far away as Denver and Detroit, bestowed blessings to their own families and scores of other faithful, shared short vocational insight with youth who attended the Mass and offered their first Masses as the main celebrants at parishes of significance to them.

For Fr. Gossen, that Mass was at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish in Scottsdale, his home parish prior to seminary. A small group of parishioners from St. Bernard’s Hispanic Ministry attended the ordination and surprised him with a giant congratulations poster lovingly framed with bright, hand-drawn and painted flowers. What’s more, Fr. Gossen’s new pastor — Fr. Ernesto Reynoso at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale, come July 1 — inspired the idea while on a regular visit to celebrate Mass for members of the ministry.

Ordinations Highlights

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  • Fr. Peter Teresa and Fr. Gossen’s ordination Mass were among at least 15 held the same day in dioceses and archdioceses nationwide. The U.S. Church expected to gain 481 priests throughout the full ordination season. Of them, 75 percent was for diocesan priesthood and 25 percent were for the religious priesthood.

Fr. Peter Teresa celebrated his first Mass at St. John the Baptist Parish in Laveen before the sun set on ordination day and was scheduled to hear confessions first. His ministry will support the growing number of Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit who serve that parish, St. Peter Parish in Bapchule and their respective missions.

Bishop Olmsted sent them both out “to be servants of integrity and unity among God’s people.” Integrity requires exercising the virtues of humility, gentleness, patience and bearing with one another through love, the bishop said, expanding on the theme drawn from the second reading which St. Paul wrote from jail to the Ephesians. Where it might have been easy to keep quiet, Paul knew his mission was not complete.

“Notice how St. Paul exhorted his people: ‘worthy of the call you have received,’” the bishop said. He didn’t let Mass end without thanking the priests themselves, their families, religious and others who pray for and support vocations for enabling the newly vested priests to be worthy of their call.

The bishop reminded all in attendance that God made everyone a royal priesthood in Christ, but Jesus “chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in His name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church … to exercise His office of teacher, priest and shepherd.”

Where they serve

Fr. Peter Teresa McConnell, FHS

parochial vicar

St. John the Baptist Parish in Laveen and St. Peter Parish in Bapchule and their respective missions

effective June 1

Fr. Christopher Gossen

parochial vicar

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale

effective July 1

The prayer of ordination traced the priesthood through Moses and Aaron to Jesus and his apostles who were sharers in His mission. That same prayer petitioned God to grant Fr. Peter Teresa and Fr. Gossen the dignity of priesthood to instill right conduct in others, be faithful stewards of Christ’s mysteries and co-workers in the vineyard who nurture the seed of the Gospel in human hearts.

“Just having those prayers washing over you and hit your soul, that was very powerful and very moving for me,” Fr. Peter Teresa said.

For his dad, Tom McConnell, the Litany of Saints just before that stood out to him. Both ordinands laid prostrate at the altar’s steps while the faithful prayed to the saints and asked God to bless, sanctify and consecrate the chosen men.

“You see him lay before Jesus and he’s saying, ‘I’m giving my life to you as surrender,’” the elder McConnell said.

As a further act of surrender, each ordinand knelt in front of their bishop as he consecrated their hands with holy oil. Jerry Gossen, Fr. Gossen’s dad, found that part emotional.

“That’s the sealing of his priesthood right here,” the elder Gossen said.

He saw a new kind of brotherhood throughout the remainder of Mass, including as each priest warmly embraced the newest ones. It was a similar type of brotherhood he saw during years of seminary visits.

Fr. Gossen also noted feeling that fraternal embrace on the altar.

“You’re up there surrounded by brother priests … having all of them surround you as you concelebrate with Bishop,” Fr. Gossen said.

The fact that the bishop received the bread and wine from the mothers of the newly-ordained priests further illustrated the bishop’s words to the priests, “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.”

Both new priests saw a whirlwind of visitors during the blessing reception. They represented all chapters of their lives including those yet to be written from future parish assignments.

Fr. Peter Teresa summed up his ordination journey as being absolutely worth it. “Whatever you’re going through right now, whatever you’re leaving behind, wherever the Lord has you on the cross right now, it’s absolutely worth it and he’ll carry you to this mountain,” he told a small group of discerners at a luncheon after the ordination Mass.

Fr. Gossen put it another way describing his feeling of absolute gratitude and joy walking into the church. “I don’t know if I did, but I felt like I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time.”


Becoming a priest amidst a church crisis (plus jump page)

The back story