complete the circle
By George Evans
Last weekend I was fortunate, even blessed, to attend and participate in the ordination and first Mass of Father Jason Johnston. He and Father Joseph Le were both ordained by Bishop Joseph Kopacz in the Cathedral of St. Peter on Saturday, May 14 and each celebrated his first Mass the next day, May 15.
Fr. Johnston celebrated in his home parish, Vicksburg St. Paul and Father Le in Greenville St. Joseph, where he had previously spent some time in ministry. I urge you to not miss the next chance to attend an ordination and first Mass, particularly when you know the ordinandi.
I met Jason before he entered seminary at the 7a.m. daily Mass at St. Richard where I was on staff at the time. I was from Vicksburg and our families had known each other so there was an immediate connection. A short while later my wife and I invited him to participate in our St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Richard which had been established a short time earlier.
He agreed and became one of the earliest members after those of us who had started it. He was a great addition. He was young, an accounting graduate from Mississippi State who had been working for the Mississippi Department of Revenue for a couple of years, loved the Lord and was inclined to prayer and to service of the poor and marginalized.
Not surprisingly he was a great member open to every challenge of a fledging undertaking. About five months later, Saint Vincent de Paul hosted a farewell party for Jason at the home of our president, Jon Fairbank and his wife, Sue. We got to meet Jason’s wonderful mother and father and the rest of his great family. Jason was off to the seminary at St. Ben’s for two years and then Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans for four years culminating in becoming Father Jason Johnston six years later.
The power of the ordination liturgy is profound. The ordinandi is vouched for as to education and character by a priest involved in formation, makes his wish for ordination known to all, promises obedience to the bishop, receives the grace of the Litany of the Saints prayed by all present, is ordained by the laying on of hands by the bishop followed by his now brother priests, invested with stole and chasuble, has hands anointed by the bishop and is again welcomed by brother priests with a fraternal kiss of peace.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist follows and after what has just transpired is as rich and compelling as can be. I can’t imagine anyone present not being profoundly affected. I certainly was.
I went to Vicksburg with Carol for Father Johnston’s first Mass because we had known him more than six years and had just met Father Le although the beauty of his Vietnamese family and the dresses of the Vietnamese ladies was compelling. St. Paul’s outdid itself. I was so proud to say it’s where I grew up. Father Tom Lalor’s greeting and welcome were perfect. Father Jason had not one flaw in his Mass celebration.
As was the case at the ordination, the music and choir was exciting and the myriad seminarians carried out their tasks with attention and liturgical sense and touch. The homily by Father James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary, was superb in both content and delivery. It would be great if copies could be available. It was that good.
I can only contrast the power of the ordination on Saturday and the beauty and grace of the first Mass on Sunday with the pettiness, cynicism and silliness of our materialistic world and particularly our bankrupt politics. As Father Wehner and the psalmist pointed out in the homily and scripture, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”
If ever the Holy Spirit is needed, it is now. If ever we are called to renew the face of the earth, it is now. Only if we as lay people understand and accept that this task is ours as well as that of Bishop Kopacz, our priests and consecrated religious will we be able to renew the face of the earth.
As Father Wehner so eloquently preached, with the new beginnings of Father Jason Johnston and Father Joseph Le and the new influx of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, maybe, just maybe, we can all pull together and renew the face of the earth.
(George Evans is a retired pastoral minister who lives at St. Catherine’s Village and is a member of Jackson St. Richard Parish.)
complete the circle