Grace at Work

By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Three priests are ordained for the Diocese of Syracuse

“This is the high point of our church year, the liturgical celebration that most holds me in awe,” Bishop James Moynihan said Saturday.

With standing room only in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse and roughly 120 priests in attendance, three new priests were ordained with all of the pomp and pageantry associated with the ceremony.

“It was a wonderful exercise for us in seeing God’s grace at work in the lives and the hearts of these young men and also it’s a reminder to us of how their parents and all of the people that support them have encouraged them along the way and have not stood in the way,” the bishop said after the ceremony. “They have not been obstacles to their progress along the road of priesthood. They have actually been encouragers and that’s a wonderful thing.”

The central element of ordination is the transmission of the priesthood and during his homily; Bishop Moynihan relayed how his call to the vocation would not have been possible without the inspiration of his own parish priest, Father John Morgan.

“I do not believe that I would have made this decision had I not experienced the human goodness and priestly holiness of our beloved parish curate,” the bishop said. “In him I saw an embodiment of priesthood that both inspired and captivated.”

His homily stressed the honor that was being bestowed upon the new priests.

“How privileged are these young men to have been called to be priests of Jesus Christ,” the bishop said.

As of Saturday afternoon, Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Maloney and Thienan Tran were all able to answer to the title “Father” for the first time in their lives.

O’Connor was overwhelmed with emotion and his eyes welled up following the ceremony. At the heart of the liturgy is the rite of ordination proper, which includes two ritual actions. The first is the Laying on of Hands, in which the ordinands go before the bishop, who silently prays, placing his hands upon the candidate’s head. The second pivotal phase of the rite is the Prayer of Consecration in which the gathered priests raise their hands, invoking the Holy Spirit.

“There was just so much joy. How many times have I been there and watched other people get ordained? And this time it was me,” O’Connor said. “As it started, it dawned on me, ‘This is me.’ And then the awesomeness of it. Wow…it started to blow me away. I know God’s grace will sustain me though.”

Near the close of the ceremony, O’Connor, Maloney and Tran offered Communion for the first time as priests and that was the only part of the ceremony that made O’Connor a little bit nervous.

“That was the part I was still nervous about today,” he said.

Asked when he first decided he wanted to become a priest, O’Connor relayed that the process has been one of evolution.

“It’s a ‘deciding.’ When did you first fall in love? It’s a long life process,” he said.

O’Connor was assigned to St. James Church in Johnson City and he said he is eager to begin his new life of service in the Southern Tier.

“It’s awesome. We have so many young priests who went through there and they’ve done a great job the last few years,” he said. “The parish is great. They formed these guys and showed them how to be priests, taught them how to love and I think that’s what the Lord is going to do for me when I’m down there.”

Although a Liverpool High School graduate, Maloney, who did his undergraduate work at the University of Binghamton, calls Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City his home parish. Now Maloney has been given a chance to return to his native Syracuse area as his first assignment will be Blessed Sacrament Parish.

“I’m really excited,” Maloney said. “Syracuse is my home and I’m glad to be back.”

According to one diocesan official, the ceremony featured the best attendance it had received in at least nine years. The official estimated that over 1,000 family members, priests and supporters were in attendance.

“It’s amazing, just amazing. The showing of people and the show of support was amazing. It was just a wonderful blessing,” Maloney said.

Interwoven with the standard Western elements of the ceremony were those inspired by Vietnamese Catholics as the diocese ordained its first Vietnamese priest in Tran. Sister Martin Binh Minh Tran, who happens to be the ordinand’s sister, read Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 in Vietnamese and a special choir sang in the language native to the Southeast Asian nation. The choir sang “Ca Dao Tinh Chua,” which means “The Song of God’s Love.”

In a prepared statement, Tran explained, “This is one of the songs that helped me to know how God has loved me.”

“It was great wasn’t it? It certainly made us feel like we were very international. I think we’ll see more and more of that. We have Vietnamese speaking sisters and priests in the diocese already. Now of course, we have a native Vietnamese priest,” Bishop Moynihan said.

In Vietnam, Tran was inspired in his faith and then to his calling by his parents, Hung Viet Tran and Kim Thi Vu. He was also inspired by Vietnamese holy music and the lives and works of the clerics he encountered.

“It was my parents who really supported me and took me to church every day,” he said. “I was inspired by the Vietnamese songs and by the homilies of the priests and the lives of the priests and religious sisters and brothers.”

He hopes to transmit that example during his priesthood.

“The vocation of the priesthood comes from the love that they shared with me and showed me. So now, it is my turn to show the people that I really received the love of God and the love of the people and now I want to share that with them,” he said.

Tran was surprised to find out that his first assignment will be at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the heart of the Syracuse Diocese.

“It’s a great honor for me to be in Syracuse and know the people and serve the people,” Tran said. “The future can be very bright and I hope that the people really support me and work with me so that the church can grow greater and greater in the future.”

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