Ordination Mass showcases ancient rites

By Maureen Smith and Mary Woodward
The Mass of ordination for Binh Nguyen, José de Jesús Sánchez and Rusty Vincent honored the cultures of all three men and the church. Hymns, chants and readings in Spanish, Vietnamese, English and Latin alluded to the ancient tradition and modern reality of Catholicism. Bishop Joseph Kopacz greeted the congregation and thanked the ordinands’ families in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Planning for the celebration began months ago as the men completed their studies. Volunteers and staff members from the cathedral and chancery helped with every detail from parking arrangements to handing out programs and making sure the tables at the reception were well stocked with food.
The night before the Mass the ordinands gathered in the cathedral with Bishop Kopacz, the other seminarians, who acted as servers at the Mass and the ministers of ceremony to rehearse for the big day. The rehearsal began with Vespers, evening prayer, sung by all those gathered. The mood was quiet, but expectant as the seminarians led the small congregation in song and prayer.
The Rite has many parts so the then-deacons walked through every movement so they could better understand the mechanics of the ordination as well as have some time to reflect on its impact. Mary Woodward spoke to each seminarian about the responses he would be expected to give, when to stand and kneel and how the Mass would proceed. The Rite of Ordination commences after the Gospel. It began when Father Matthew Simmons, director of the diocesan vocations office, called forward the men and Father James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, attested that the men were ready to be ordained priests.
Bishop Kopacz directed his homily to the three, calling to mind Pope Francis’ exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” (The Joy of the Gospel), explaining that our joy is a reflection of God’s joy for us.
He called Holy Orders a special gift given directly to the men, but also to the whole church. “In turn, the gift of their lives laid down in loving service will be a blessing to the People of God, the Body of Christ, scattered throughout the Diocese of Jackson,” said Bishop Kopacz. “Without a doubt you are a gift to all of the clergy of this diocese. Each year at the Chrism Mass priests renew the promises  we made on the day of our ordination. In a singular way today, as we lay hands upon you, you are inspiring us to stir into flame the gift we received with the laying on of hands,” he added.
He told them the call to the priesthood does not end at ordination. It is a life-long call, starting in the family, the domestic church, and continuing through their lives. “Those in the vocation ministry and in seminary formation, through dialogue, discernment, teaching and preaching, brought the Lord’s call in your lives into living waters. Without a doubt it takes an entire church to inspire and cultivate a vocation. It’s a community effort, and ultimately God’s work,” said the bishop.
After the homily each of the ordinands made five promises. As described in the rite the promises are to discharge the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank as worthy fellow workers with the Order of Bishops; to exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith; to celebrate faithfully and reverently the mysteries of Christ handed down by the church, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people; to implore God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to their care by observing the command to pray without ceasing and to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice and to consecrate themselves to God for the salvation of all.
The men then knelt individually before the bishop, placed their hands in his and promised obedience to him and his successors. The next part of the rite is perhaps the one that most people associate visually with ordination. The men then prostrate themselves  before the altar as the  congregation prays the litany of the saints. The prayer calls to mind the ancient tradition of asking the saints to pray for us and calls for the Holy Spirit to come down on the men about to be ordained.
Bishop Kopacz laid hands on each candidate’s head, and then each priest present also imposed hands on the men in silence symbolizing the men are joining the presbyterial college of the local church. The priests remained in the sanctuary, surrounding the bishop as he invoked the prayer of ordination. This prayer traces the priesthood from the call of Aaron in the Old Testament to the work of Jesus in the New Testament.
The new priests were then vested in stole and chasuble by a priest they had chosen, usually a mentor. Father Nguyen had Archbishop Emeritus Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, his spiritual director help vest him. Father Joseph Palermo, director of spiritual formation for Notre Dame Seminary vested Father Sanchez and Father Vincent’s uncle, Father Patrick Mascarella of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, vested him. Ideally priests should always wear a stole and chasuble when they celebrate Mass thus vesting symbolizes the men’s new status as priests.

Following the vesting came the anointing of the new priests hands. Anointing is a tradition dating to the earliest days of God’s covenant with his people. The bishop anointed the palms of each ordinand with Sacred Chrism consecrated on Tuesday of  Holy Week at the Mass of the Oils.
Family members then brought up the gifts so the bishop can present each new priest with a chalice filled with water and wine and a paten with a host on it. The men held the gifts as the bishop recited the command, “Receive from the Holy People of God the gifts to be offered to God. Know what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
The Rite concludes with the ancient exchange of the fraternal kiss of peace. The bishop offered it first to each priest and then all the priests in attendance took their turns giving the men a hearty hug. The exchange of peace is a way for the local clergy to welcome their new coworkers into their ranks.
The Mass continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Before the final blessing each priest greeted the congregation. Father Nguyen read his greeting in Vietnamese, Father Sanchez in Spanish. Father Vincent approached the ambo and began, “I guess I’ll just talk in English.” He spoke of how he was feeling the joy St. John felt upon hearing Mary’s voice, saying he could barely contain it. That same joy rippled throughout the congregation as the bishop announced parish assignments for the men.

The congregation erupted in applause as each assignment was read. Father Nguyen will serve at Madison St. Francis of Assisi; Father Sanchez in the Catholic Community of Meridian, St. Patrick and St. Joseph, and Father Vincent will go to Greenville St. Joseph.
Festivities continued in the Cathedral Center with a reception for everyone. Those who attended were treated to a variety of foods. Members of the Vietnamese community came early to prepare hundreds of hand-rolled spring rolls on site to serve at the party along with catered food served by dozens of volunteers.
The Cathedral Flower guild created overflowing flower arrangements for the tables in the center full of dark pink, white and green flowers to compliment the colors of the cathedral. Well-wishers could sign guest books congratulating the three new priests and leave cards and gifts on a table set up just for that purpose.

Ordinands, families, friends share joyful day

By Maureen Smith
The ordination Mass of Binh Nguyen, José de Jesús Sánchez and Rusty Vincent had joyful overtones from the very start. Not only was it the first time in many years more than one man was ordained at a time in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, but it was celebrated Saturday, May 31, the Feast of the Visitation, when St. John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb upon hearing our Blessed Mother’s voice and sensing the presence of the Lord in her womb.
The men being ordained reflect the diversity of the universal church as well as the diversity of the local church in the Diocese of Jackson. Father Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, has served the Vietnamese community around Forest. Many of these Catholics came to Mississippi thanks to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) efforts to resettle refugees after the Vietnam War. Members of the community gather regularly to honor and celebrate their heritage with Masses in Vietnamese at both Forest St. Michael and Jackson St. Therese Parishes.
“I first met Binh Nguyen when he was on a summer assignment at my home parish in Meridian,” said seminarian Nick Adam. “I was immediately impressed with his hard work ethic and happy disposition. Binh was always ready to help out in any way he could, and he had such a great attitude,” Adam continued.
Father Sánchez left his native Mexico to serve the missions in Mississippi which have a growing and very active Hispanic community. Adam described him as welcoming, kind and thoughtful. “He even showed me how to properly tie a knot in a cincture,” he joked.
Father Vincent is a local vocation who has taught in the Catholic schools in the diocese. He calls Pearl St. Jude his home parish. The other seminarians describe his quiet sense of humor and good attitude as some of his best assets.
Family members from Mexico, Vietnam and across the U.S. took their seats in the front rows of the cathedral to witness the rite. “I am overwhelmed with emotion, a big emotion, I can’t describe it,” said Jesús Sánchez, father of Father Sánchez, with a soft and warm voice. “God has given him the blessing of this day today, to be ordained a priest and we are all very happy for him,” he added
Father Nguyen’s parents are deceased, but an aunt and a sister and brother attended the ordination. “The day of ordination was a very beautiful and grace-filled day in my Christian life,” said Father Nguyen after the Mass. “God is good, all the time,” he added.
Father Vincent’s parents, Rhea and Denise Vincent, attended as did his siblings, their spouses, children and lots of extended family.
“The day of our ordination was an incredible occasion. The excitement and nerves of the whole day flowed through me,” said Father Vincent in the week after the event. “The most memorable part was when the oil was poured into my hands, for it was a sign of me being conformed to Christ. It was a day that I was filled with joy, and it was a blessing to finally realize my vocation and I’m looking forward to serving the diocese,” he went on to say.
While ordination falls at the end of a long process of discernment, prayer and study, it is also the start of a new journey. “As the director of vocations and a fellow priest, I am very happy for Binh and José de Jesús and Rusty. Bishop Kopacz emphasized to the personnel board in making their parish assignments that he was more concerned about their having a good assignment than he was about putting them where they might be most needed. That support of the bishop for the newly ordained is very important,” said Father Matthew Simmons.
Father Simmons said in the past priests might fall prey to the idea that the grace of ordination would somehow make the transition into life as a priest automatic. That’s not so, said Father Simmons. “Instead, a newly ordained priest and, indeed, every priest needs to be proactive in his relationship with God as a priest,” he said. “Thinking one can coast along is dangerous. When the priests were profiled for the Year of Priests by Mississippi Catholic, I said that the best part of the job as a priest is that people pray for you,” said Father Simmons. “I don’t think priesthood is ever what one expects it to be; so one has to be vigilant in prayer at the time of transition. There is a change in one’s experience of prayer as a priest,” he said. He went on to ask that all the faithful of the diocese continue to pray for the new priests even as they pray for new vocations.
Father Simmons challenged priests to make their joy an inspiration to others. “The National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors emphasizes to every priest that it is his responsibility to recruit at least two men to the priesthood during his lifetime. I am confident that Binh and José de Jesús and Rusty will share their joy in priesthood in such a way that their being priests will bear that kind of fruit for God and His Church.”

New vestments debut at ordination Mass

Vestments are an important part of any liturgical celebration in the church. Since con-celebration became a practice of the church, there has been an effort to coordinate the vesture of priests in the sanctuary.
Most dioceses have a set of official con-celebration vestments for diocesan Masses where many priests gather such as the annual Mass of Chrism during Holy Week, ordinations, anniversaries and funerals of priests. The Diocese of Jackson has just acquired a new set of vestments which were debuted at the ordination of three new priests on May 31.
According to Mary Woodward, director of the bishop’s liturgy office, “the previous set of vestments served the diocese very well for more than 15 years. But because of so many years of travelling around the diocese in bags and trunks, the set began to show a lot of wear and tear. Therefore in the fall of 2013, the priests’ council began a search for a new vestment set.
“During the preparations for the ordination of Bishop Joseph Kopacz, we ordered several vestments to compliment an existing set used mainly for visiting bishops. The new ones coordinated well with the existing set and the decor of the cathedral,” Woodward added.
Made by Chagall Designs in this country, the priests’ council chose to order a vestment for each priest in the diocese, including retired clergy and to have extras for visiting clergy and future ordinations.
Parishes will cover the cost of the vestment for their pastor or sacramental minister. The diocese is providing a vestment for the retired priests and for vestments set aside for visiting clergy and future priests.
“Chagall has two main sizes, but also custom makes sizes. Each priest was contacted and asked for his height so the proper size could be ordered for him,” Woodward stated. “After hearing from most every priest, the diocese ordered a mixture of sizes for the extra set,” she continued. A total of 101 vestments were ordered.
Instead of keeping the entire set at the diocesan offices, now each priest is responsible for caring for and transporting his own vestment. To assist in this the diocese provided a bag and hanger for each vestment set to help maintain its life.
Diocesan staff and Cathedral altar guild members prepared each vestment with a name and bag for the ordination. “It took about eight total hours of steaming the vestments as part of the preparation for the ordination,” said Woodward. “They were shipped across the country packed 12 to a box so when unpacked there were some definite creases in them.
“Overall our priests were very pleased with the new vestment, and many in the congregation at the ordination offered nice compliments. We hope this new set will last as long as the previous set,” Woodward concluded.
For clergy unable to make the ordination Mass, vestments were being transported to them at the various anniversary celebrations. If anyone would like to assist in providing a vestment to a retired priest, please contact Woodward at (601) 960-8475.

Profile: Father Binh Chau Nguyen

Editor’s note: in the weeks leading up to ordination, Mississippi Catholic asked each ordinand to fill out a personality profile so the faithful could have some insight into their new priests.

Home Parish: Saint Michael Parish in Forest
Favorite Saints: Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and Saint Louis de Montfort
(he is my baptismal name).
Favorite Scripture: “He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1)

Favorite prayer or devotion and why?
My favorite devotional prayer is the rosary because my mother, first of all, is the first person who taught me how to pray this wonderful prayer. In addition, I always believe that my spiritual life as a deacon or a priest will not be pleasing to God unless it includes devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Moreover a seminarian, a deacon or a priest needs the help and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary more than anyone else. So, mindful of the important role of our Blessed Virgin Mary, I always ask for her help through saying this awesome prayer every day.

Who will “vest” you at your ordination and why?
Archbishop Alfred Hughes, Archbishop Emeritus of Archdiocese of New Orleans will vest me at my priestly ordination. The reason why I choose him because he is my spiritual Director during the time I have studied at Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans. He has been my closest person to my priestly vocation since 2009. He always gives me spiritual support and shares with me a lot of wonderful guidance and insight for my spiritual journey toward the priesthood. He has been teaching me how to become a good and holy priest by passing his great and valuable spiritual experience on me.

Do you have any family attending the ordination?  If so, who?
My Aunt, Sister Mary Martin Tran Thi Tue, O.P., from Vietnam. She is my mother’s sister. My brother and sister from Texas and California will come as well.

What are you most looking forward to as a priest?
I am looking forwarding to SERVING everybody in the diocese of Jackson as a priest

Collecting Stamps (Vietnamese and Vatican Stamps); Reading theological books.

Something about you that people may not know:
I have  black belt of Taekwondo.

Do you have any advice for those discerning
a vocation?
From my experience as a seminarian, I would say that keeping faithful to daily prayer is very important point for those discerning a vocation. I think that a vocation to the priesthood or to a religious life can only survive with our personal relationship with God through our daily prayers.

Parishes where you served as a deacon/seminarian:
Jackson St. Therese; Meridian Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph; Forest Saint Michael; Newuton Saint Anne; Paulding Saint Michael.

Profile: Father José de Jesús Sánchez

Hometown: Zapote de Peralta,
Abasolo, Gto. Mexico.
Home parish: Our Lord of Esquipulitas
Elementary/High School: Ignacio Aldama, Telesecundaria 55, and Video bachillerato.
Favorite Saint: Saint Joseph
Favorite Scripture: John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Favorite prayer or devotion and why:
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is my favorite devotion because it helps me to keep in mind that I need to pray for all the souls as a good shepherd.

Who will “vest” you at your ordination and why?
My spiritual director, Father Joe Palermo, will vest me because he knows me very well and he has been a good model for me during my discernment toward the priesthood.

Do you have any family attending the ordination? If so, who?
Yes, my parents Celia Quiroz and Jesús Sánchez, and two siblings Maribel Sánchez and Juan de Dios Sánchez.
What are you most looking forward to as a priest?
I am looking forward to administering the sacraments to my future parishioners and to grow in holiness with them.

Favorite Book:
Father Benedict Groeschel, The Mystery of Joseph.

Favorite Movie:
Gifted Hands—The Benjamin Carson Story.

I like to read, to run, to walk, and to play basketball.

Do you have any advice for those discerning a vocation?
God calls every day to each of us, but we need to learn how to listen to his voice. We should spend some time in prayer with the Lord and ask Him to strengthen us to do his will in our lives. Then we should celebrate the sacraments more often because through them God helps us to come closer to him, and finally, we should have a spiritual director, who will be able to guide us in our discernment. Let us not be afraid to say “Yes” to the Lord, let us walk together the way toward holiness!

Parishes where you served
as a deacon/seminarian:
Jackson St. Therese; Canton Sacred Heart; Catholic Community of West Jackson Christ the King and St. Mary

Profile: Father Rusty Vincent

Hometown: Brandon
Home Parish: St. Jude, Pearl
Elementary/High School: Brandon High School
Favorite Saints: St. Augustine and St. Therese of Lisieux
Favorite Scripture: Luke 15:11-32 (Parable of the Prodigal Son)

Favorite prayer or devotion and why:
Rosary, for it helps me meditate on the life of Christ through the eyes of his mother.

Who will “vest” you at your ordination and why?
Fr. Patrick Mascarella, because he is my uncle who is a priest from the diocese of Baton Rouge.

Do you have any family attending the ordination? If so, who?
I have my parents, siblings with their spouses, nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and many more in my extended family.  It will be quite a celebration in my family.

What are you most looking forward to as a priest?
I am looking forward to celebrating Mass.  It is the center of our faith and worship, and it will be a humbling experience to be given the opportunity to celebrate Mass.

Favorite Book:
“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen.

Chess, Golf, Building Legos and models, watching or playing football and basketball.

Something about you people may not know:
I never thought about becoming a priest when I was growing up.  It was not until college.  It shows that God can call us at any moment in our lives.

Do you have any advice for those discerning a vocation?
Patience and fortitude.  I learned over the years that a vocation does not reach maturity overnight.  In fact, it takes a great deal of time and patience in prayer for it to be realized.  Also discernment is never easy.  Through the difficult times it took a great deal of strength and trust in God to reach this point in my pilgrimage.

Benedictines form first steps in seminary

Most seminarians studying for the Diocese of Jackson start their studies and formation at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, La. The Diocese of Jackson does not have a seminary of its own so they have to go out of state to begin their education.
“We count 10 seminarians right now with another man in the application process,” said Father Matthew Simmons, director of the Office of Vocations. “Two new seminarians, Colby Mitchell and Andrew Bowden, will be pursuing their undergraduate degrees at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, La.
“An undergraduate seminarian is required to complete so many philosophy courses as a prerequisite to his graduate studies in theology that he will almost invariably finish with an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Two seminarians will be primarily studying English at St. Joseph Seminary. The others will be studying theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans,” he explained.
Students refer to St. Joseph Seminary College as St. Ben’s. It is part of a Benedictine Monastery and is marking its 125th anniversary this year.
The Abbey and Seminary College began it’s rich history in 1889 with the arrival of four Benedictine monks from St. Meinrad, Indiana. It was their humble task to repeat the ancient task of establishing a monastery and “a school for the Lord’s service,” in southern Louisiana. During the past 125 years, the college has educated many of the Gulf South’s civic and religious leaders.
It has founded and staffed numerous parishes in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. By sponsoring and promoting programs in both liturgical and secular arts, the Abbey and Seminary College has had a significant impact on the area’s culture. An abiding spiritual presence which is manifested in its daily rhythms of prayer, has also been maintained in the community. This year the seminary broke enrollment records just in time for a new dorm to open to house all the students.
“Today, we continue to educate young men for the Catholic priesthood, and our reach has widened. We are home to seminarians from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee,” said Vanessa Courere, development director for the Abbey. “We have seminarians ranging in age from 18 to 38 who have received their call to serve. This year we graduated 27 fine young men, including three from the Diocese of Jackson, Nicholas Adam, Mark Shoffner and Aaron Williams,” she added.
The Abbey serves more than just future priests. St. Joseph sponsors an art atelier to teach drawing and painting to anyone who wants to learn. Brothers bake thousands of loaves of bread to distribute to the poor using donations to fund the program, called Pennies for Bread. It offers a retreat center and hosts one of the region’s largest youth gatherings, Abbey Youth Fest, a long weekend of worship, song, fun and exposure to vocation opportunities for high school and college students from across the South.
For years the Abbey has been making caskets for their Benedictine community members. Following Hurricane Katrina, which left many downed trees on the property, the abbey started crafting caskets to sell to the broader community. After some legal issues with funeral directors and state law, the courts granted the Abbey the rights to make and sell caskets to anyone wishing to have one.
The Abbey is offering a series of public lectures and concerts as part of its 125th anniversary celebration.  On Friday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. in Benet Hall Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson will present  “The Prophetic Role of Monasticism Today.” Robert LeBlanc will play an organ concert on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 3 p.m. in the Abbey Church and on Sunday, Nov. 9, at 3 p.m. three men will present a concert and choral performance in the Abbey Church demonstrating Saint Joseph Abbey’s contribution to liturgical music.
See more about all the offerings at St. Ben’s on the Abbey website, http://www.saintjosephabbey.com.

Notre Dame provides graduate studies

Since the Diocese of Jackson does not have a seminary of its own, diocesan seminarians complete their formation and graduate studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. The original seminary was founded in 1838 in Plattville, Louisiana and moved several times before settling in its current location. All three of the diocese’s new priests graduated from there, as did Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino. The following is an excerpt from the seminary’s history, written in part to celebrate the anniversary year:
Archbishop John W. Shaw (1918-1934) called a meeting of laymen at his Esplanade Avenue residence for the purpose of discussing with them the ways and means of erecting a substantial building on a site acquired in 1910.
An outcome of the August 20, 1920, meeting was the launch of a capital campaign. By the following January the campaign netted close to $1 million from some 50,000 subscribers. Encouraged by this broad-based display of interest and generosity towards a permanent major seminary, the archbishop commissioned the architect, General Allison Owen, to draw plans for Notre Dame Seminary.
The corner stone was laid for the handsome chateau-like building on May 7, 1922. The seminary began functioning on September 18, 1923, with 25 students from the three Louisiana dioceses registering for philosophical and theological courses. In 1925, the present Archbishop’s residence was built next to the seminary.
From the beginning of the seminary until 1967, the Marist Fathers of the Washington Province were in charge. The first rector was Father Charles Dubray, S.M. The number of students remained small through the formative years, not exceeding 60 until September 1932.
During his relatively short tenure, the Most Reverend John P. Cody (1962-1965) laid the groundwork for the emergence of Notre Dame Seminary into a provincial seminary exclusively for theological students.
Prior to the establishment in 1964 of the St. John Vianney Preparatory School, also located in the Carrollton section, diocesan seminarians normally spent six years at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary (established by the Benedictines at Gessen, Louisiana in 1891) and then six more years at Notre Dame Seminary. St. Joseph Seminary College (in Covington, Louisiana since 1902) became a four-year college seminary in 1968, serving principally the province of New Orleans.
In addition to the Marist Fathers, diocesan priests and others of specialized competence have been professors and lecturers at Notre Dame Seminary since the arrival of Archbishop Philip M. Hannan in 1965.
Notre Dame Seminary observed its 90th anniversary during the 2013-2014 academic year.
As a graduate school and a seminary, Notre Dame Seminary continues to be an apostolic community of faith forming future priests for the church as well as a center of theological studies preparing the laity for ministry and leadership positions in the church. Take a virtual tour at www.nds.edu.
Editor’s note: to support seminarian education contact Father Matthew Simmons in the Office of Vocations, 601-960-8484.