Pastor's Message Archives

Looking back at the weekly messages of Father Paul Counce, first published in The Carpenter, our weekly Parish Bulletin

Ordinations "R" Us

Published: May 21, 2017

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

            Next Saturday, May 27, at 10 am here in the Cathedral, one of the most special and joyous celebrations which the Church can experience will be held. Bishop Robert Muench will ordain Deacons Pat Broussard and Ryan Hallford as priests, and Mr. Tim Grimes, a seminarian from our Parish, as a deacon. Especially if you’ve never been to an ordination, you’re especially invited and encouraged to attend: the Sacrament of Holy Orders is easily the least-conferred of the seven sacraments. It’s something that every member of the faithful should witness.

The ordination itself is conferred by the “laying-on of hands” by the bishop upon the heads of those chosen by him, followed by the special consecratory prayer which corresponds to each Order. (The three grades, or Orders, of the sacrament are bishop, priest and deacon.) But many other rituals are part of the liturgy. One of the most impressive parts, for example, is a favorite of mine: when the candidates prostrate themselves (that is, lie down) before God’s altar while the Litany of the Saints is sung. It’s one last moment of intense prayer for them as they prepare for their life-changing commitment.

If you paid close attention to the preceding paragraph, you noticed that I said that the bishop decides who is ordained. It’s true. While through many years of prayer and formation the individual men themselves have discerned to place themselves at God’s service in the Church – and many evaluations of them by diocesan vocations personnel and seminary faculty have recommended this – it is the bishop alone who ultimately has the only vote! I suspect that Bishop Muench and indeed any diocesan bishop will tell you it’s one of the most important decisions that he must make.

Our Cathedral has hosted most of the ordinations in our Diocese of Baton Rouge over the past 55+ years. Only three of our now-retired priests (Fathers Brunet, Marcel and Vavasseur) were ordained in New Orleans before our diocesan territory was “cut off” from the archdiocese there and established as an independent diocese in 1961. The Cathedral was closed for renovations in 1966-1967, and then partially in 2014 due to our Hall renovations, so a few ordinations had to be held elsewhere. And Bishop Joseph Sullivan from 1974-1982 preferred ordinations be held in each candidate’s home parish, as a way of publicizing vocations on the most local level. (That’s why I was ordained at my home parish church of Our Lady of Mercy in 1979.) But pretty much all other diocesan ordinations have been here. We even celebrated here the episcopal ordination of our former pastor, Msgr. William Donald Borders, as the founding Bishop of Orlando in 1968! (He later went on to be the 13th Archbishop of Baltimore.) I remember the ceremony: it was the first bishop’s ordination I ever attended!

So I hope you can come. We do ordinations well. Maybe we should put Ordinations "R" Us on our stationery?

                                    Sincerely in the Risen Lord,

                                    Father Paul

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