Bishop James Moynihan shakes hands with Father Philip Brockmyre
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Among family and friends, Father Philip Brockmyre, 63, became the oldest ordinand in the history of the Syracuse Diocese when he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James Moynihan at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse on June 1. Father Brockmyre was the second priest ordained in the Syracuse Diocese in the past six months. Father John Manno was ordained to the priesthood on December 8.
The road to the priesthood has been quite an interesting one for Father Brockmyre. After the death of his wife, Father Brockmyre, father of eight children and grandfather of 17, thought about where his life was headed. “When someone close dies, you realize life is not forever. Time is limited,” Father Brockmyre explained. “My future was stretched off like a highway, with nothing on the sides of the road. I had two choices. The priesthood was a very strong element. I could have re-married, but the tug of the priesthood was very strong. It wasn’t a big struggle.”
Father Brockmyre was a member of St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport, within the Diocese of Rochester. He said he made a call to inquire about becoming a priest in the diocese.
“When I called Rochester, they told me in three sentences that I was over their age limit of 50,” Father Brockmyre said. However, a person involved in diaconate formation in Rochester directed Father Brockmyre to Father James Quinn, director of the Office of Vocation Promotion for the Syracuse Diocese.
“We arranged an interview and because Syracuse makes their decisions on an individual basis, I had the opportunity to explain myself,” Father Brockmyre said.
Father Quinn said after interviewing Father Brockmyre, he knew he would be a great fit for the Syracuse Diocese. “Philip is so young in every way. He had such a wonderful marriage and has a wonderful family,” Father Quinn said. “He is understanding and compassionate. You don’t get that in classes. I knew he would bring so much to the diocese.” Father Brockmyre has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. He recently finished his seminary training from Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.
But one of his most valuable experiences has been working with couples as a part of Marriage Encounter weekends.
“One of the richest experiences I have had was when my wife and I attended Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend,” he said. “It was the best thing since our marriage day. We had a greater degree of intimacy that we had ever imagined. We got involved in the preparation of marriage encounter weekends. Over the years, we talked with hundreds of couples about their relationships.”
Father Brockmyre said his own personal experience with marriage and family should help him in his priesthood.
“I think I have a good beat on family life. I will make a different contribution than the average priest. But I don’t want to minimize their priesthoods because their lives have their own richness,” he said.
One priest who has been a strong role model for Father Brockmyre is Father Joseph Champlin, rector of the Cathedral. Father Brockmyre spent two summers there and learned a tremendous amount from Father Champlin.
“He is a wonderful model as a priest. He’s very conscientious, and he’s very smart,” Father Brockmyre said. “But it’s his persona. I’m very privileged to have him as a mentor.”
Father Brockmyre said his children had some concerns about his choice to become a priest.
“The children’s primary concern was ‘Is Dad happy?’ My experience to date is that I am. They have always been very supportive of me through out,” he said. “Their secondary concern was ‘Will Dad have time for us?’ That’s a concern that I share. The ones that live far away don’t see me much anyway. But it’s not like a working mother — my children are all adults. They still will loom large in my heart. I will spend a lot of time off with my family.”
Father Brockmyre was called from the congregation gathered at the Cathedral to become a priest in the Syracuse Diocese. Father Brockmyre had three grandsons, Corey Schrist, David Barker and Sean Schrist, as acolytes for his ordination Mass. Father Neal Quartier, director of seminarians, testified to Bishop Moynihan as to the readiness of Father Brockmyre for the priesthood. The bishop elected Father Brockmyre for ordination and the election was affirmed by loud applause from the congregation.
Bishop Moynihan spoke about the Old Testament first reading from the book of Numbers and how it related to the ordination.
“We are told that when Moses needed helpers, God instructed him to assemble 70 of the elders of Israel, men he knew to be true elders and authorities among the people. He was to bring them to the meeting tent. When they were in place, God said that He would come down and speak with them, and take some of the Spirit that was on Moses and bestow it upon them. And, so it happened. The 70 elders thereafter shared with Moses the heavy burden of teaching and governing and sanctifying God’s people,” Bishop Moynihan said. “This morning we gather here in this beautiful Cathedral to celebrate the bestowal of the Spirit once again, in the priesthood of the New Testament.”
Bishop Moynihan explained the priesthood of the New Testament is about sacrifice and “the Word made flesh.” The bishop challenged Father Brockmyre to live up to the ideals of the priesthood in a difficult and changing time.
“The Gospel you have chosen [John 15:9-17] for this Mass contains our Lord’s words to His first priests as they sat at the table with Him for the last time. He said to them, ‘It was not you who chose Me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.’ It’s as ministers of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, that priests most directly identify with Jesus as priest,” Bishop Moynihan remarked. “Philip, the Eucharist is absolutely central to your priestly ministry, and the way in which you celebrate and preside over the Eucharist will make everything else that you do effective or ineffective.”
The Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Mass must be held in the forefront of priesthood, the bishop said.
“The most radical sanctification possible for any priest is that in which he permits the Eucharistic Christ to form him, reform him and transform him every single day of his life through the sacrifice of Mass. The Vatican Council Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests says, ‘Priests are strongly urged to celebrate Mass every day, for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and of the Church,” Bishop Moynihan said. “In a few moments, Phil, you will kneel before us, a priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek. May that priesthood be for you and for your people a holy and a fruitful one.”
After the homily, Bishop Moynihan asked Father Brockmyre to come forward for an examination of his willingness to become a priest. Father Brockmyre then made a promise of obedience, placing his hands inside the bishop’s folded hands. While the people of the congregation began to pray the Litany of the Saints, Father Brockmyre prostrated himself, a powerful sign of the ordinand’s submission to God’s will.
The bishop performed the Laying On Of Hands, a sign of consecration of the presbyteral order before Father Brockmyre received his vestments of the stole and chasuble. The investure was done by Father Richard Champigny, O. Carm., director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middleton, N.Y. Once vested, the bishop anointed Father Brockmyre’s hands with the sacred chrism. The anointing of the hands allows Father Brockmyre to celebrate the sacraments with the people of God. After the presentation of the gifts, brother priests congratulated Father Brockmyre with hugs in a sign of peace.
Father Joseph Zareski said this ordination was a very special one because it was his last as diocesan assistant chancellor and master of ceremonies.
“All of the ordinations are very joyful and very special,” Father Zareski said. “I look forward to coming back in the future and being a part of these celebrations again.”
Father Brockmyre has been assigned as parochial vicar for Holy Family Parish in Fairmount. He said he is looking forward to ministering to people in a large parish.
“I think I will get the maximum amount of experience in one year because of all who call that parish home,” Father Brockmyre said. “It’s a very professionally run parish. I’m impressed with it. It’s immaculate in its cleanliness and its music is superb. They have a lot of lay involvement too. There will be more baptisms, more funerals, more weddings and more confessions because it’s a bigger parish. I’m a little nervous, but part of me is grateful to serve in an active faith community.”
Father Brockmyre celebrated his first Mass at St. John of Rochester Church in Fairport on June 2. Bishop Moynihan said Father Brockmyre was “on loan for one day” to the Diocese of Rochester but would have to be back to start his new assignment.
At the end of the Mass, Father Brockmyre gave Bishop Moynihan a blessing. Father Brockmyre hopes it will be just the beginning.
“I am thrilled to be here,” Father Brockmyre said. “I hope to be a rich payoff for the diocese. It’s going to be on-the-job training. Whereever the diocese’s need is at the time, that is where I will be. I just want to give the best I can for as long as I can.”