Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Reflections of a newly ordained priest

Hello and welcome!  I hope you are all having a wonderful 4th of July holiday!

This week I’ve asked one of our newly ordained priests, Father Joe Mazzone, to write a little about his experience as he begins he priestly ministry.  I ordained Father Joe, along with six other men, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in May.

Following Father Joe’s reflection, I’ll share with you some of my events during the first days of summer.

Father Joe:

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At Mass this morning, I informed the folks in the pews not to be alarmed by the man with the camera at the back of the church. “He’s not taking pictures so I can prove to my friends that I was actually ordained a priest!” I said. “He’s there because the cardinal would like some photographs for his website!”

We both laughed but the truth is, over the last month I’ve had to pinch myself over and over again to make the reality of my ordination sink in. I still can’t believe that God has given me this great blessing, to serve his good people as a priest of Jesus Christ. It’s an honor and a responsibility I hope never to take for granted.

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Greeting my new parishioners at my new assignment, Sacred Heart in Weymouth. What a wonderful parish! Here I am at our 7:00 AM weekday Mass

My recent ordination to the priesthood, clearly the milestone in my life up to this point, followed closely upon another milestone, my pilgrimage to New York along with thousands of others, to welcome the Holy Father to the United States. I remember looking at Pope Benedict XVI, seeing his effect on the crowd, and thinking “If I could radiate a tenth of that joy, that gentleness, that love of Christ, I’d be a great priest!”  I know I’m a “rookie” but as I reflect on my first month as a priest, this, it seems to me, is one of the most important things a priest can do, to radiate the love of Christ to others and to do it with humility, joy and conviction. I’ve found that most people, whether they know it or not, desperately want to know God and know the Truth. What a great honor for the priest to be able to be a vessel for that knowledge. I pray that I am always up to the challenge.

2008 Presbyteral Ordination, May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Walking into the cathedral on the morning of my ordination with my friends and classmates Arthur MacKay and Paul Sullivan. I think it’s clear from the look on my face how happy I am!

2008 Presbyteral Ordination, May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Making my promise of obedience to Cardinal Sean and his successors. Holding the book is Guy Sciacca. Guy and I were seminarians together at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. He will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston in 2010

Of course, this challenge becomes much easier when you have had the great pastoral experiences I’ve had. Before I began my first priest assignment as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Weymouth (it’s a wonderful place – come visit!), I had the great good fortune of being at Holy Trinity Parish in Quincy, St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood, St. Angela in Mattapan and St. John the Evangelist in Winthrop (as well as chaplain assignments at MetroWest Hospital and St. Patrick’s Manor, both in Framingham.)

In each place, I was warmly welcomed and treated with generosity and trust. It reinforced to me that it’s not so much the priest as whom he represents, Jesus Christ.

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The youth are especially hungry for Christ and are such a vital part of the church. The youth group at St. John’s in Winthrop were especially interested in, and supportive of, my vocation. Here I am with George . . .

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… and Alyssa

It reminds me of a passage in Pope Benedict’s book “Milestones” in which he reflects on his ordination to the priesthood.

“I learned firsthand how earnestly people wait for a priest,” he said, “how they long for the blessing that flows from the power of the sacrament. The point was not [the priests.] In us they saw persons who had been touched by Christ’s mission and had been empowered to bring His nearness to [all] . . . we ourselves were not the point . . .”

2008 Presbyteral Ordination, May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Lying prostrate during the Litany of the Saints. It reminds all of us that everything comes from God and we can fearlessly put our trust in Him

2008 Presbyteral Ordination, May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Distributing communion to one of the many good people who came to share in the Ordination

This sentiment was clearly going through my heart at my own ordination. The grace of God flowed freely and abundantly on everyone there, not just those becoming priests. I could see it so clearly on their faces. Looking at all the people I thought to myself “This is your ordination, too. It’s the prayers and support of good people like you that helped me to walk up these steps to be ordained and it’s for all of you that I’m walking down.” I couldn’t have been more grateful to them, to you, and especially to Almighty God. I could not have done it alone.

I think one of the most moving parts of the ceremony was the Laying on of Hands. This is really the most solemn moment of the Rite of Ordination. The bishop ordains each man by placing his hands on their head and invoking the Holy Spirit on the new priest.

I can’t imagine a more profound, exhilarating and humbling experience than this, that moment when Cardinal Sean placed his hands on my head. I’ve never known such joy, truly.

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Following the bishop, all the other priests who are present do the same. It’s an incredibly beautiful symbol of unity and brotherhood. One by one the priests came up. My eyes were closed so I couldn’t see them but this just added to the meaningfulness of the action that was happening.

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As they laid their hands on my head, I imagined it was not only the hands of these good and faithful men but the hands of all the wonderful, holy priests I’ve known throughout my life, especially those priests who’ve finished their earthly pilgrimage and gone home to God. I felt the hands of dear Father Menard, who taught me (so patiently!) how to be an altar boy when I was eight years old, who gave me my First Communion and whom everybody in the parish loved so much, including me. I felt the hands of Father Boyle, the good and humble “Labor Priest” of Boston whom I met during my year at St. Angela’s and who, though dying of cancer, gave every last bit of his rapidly depleting strength to serve God’s good people there.  And of course I felt the hands of Father Dan Kennedy who, in the eight short months we worked together at St. John’s in Winthrop, taught me volumes about what it means to be a good man and a good priest.

2008 Presbyteral Ordination, May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Giving Cardinal Sean my very first blessing as a priest. It was an honor to thank him for all his kindness and support

My First Mass of Thanksgiving was at St. Joan of Arc, my home parish in Cumberland, Rhode Island. It was quite an honor to celebrate Mass in the parish where I made almost all my sacraments and where I learned so much about my faith. I felt extremely comfortable. (Thank God for the Holy Spirit!) I told the people I wasn’t sweating because I was nervous; I just wasn’t used to wearing all those clothes! Have sympathy for your priests, my friends, especially during the summer. Trust me, those vestments can be pretty heavy! Sitting in the presider’s chair, I couldn’t help thinking of my journey of faith and discernment that started all those years ago in this very place. As a little boy I used to sit in the pews and watch the priests celebrate the Mass with total fascination. I’d watch all the good people around me praying. All of it inspired me to want to serve God in the best way I could. (I always tell people, you might think you’re not all that special or important but you never know who’s watching you. A lot of people, more than you realize, see all those little acts of faith and kindness you perform and are greatly inspired by them. I certainly was.) After a lot of prayer, it felt to me that the best way I could serve God was as a priest.

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My mother found a note I’d written to Jesus and displayed it at the reception following my Ordination. My grammar wasn’t so good, but the sentiment was genuine!

It certainly helped that I had great models of holiness to inspire me, people like my late father, Remo, and my mother Theresa, who were and are wonderful examples of a Catholic faith that is truly “lived out.” Even before the Church, they were my first real teachers of the Faith. Giving my mother my First Blessing was a great honor for me. I credit her the most for showing me how to make God a part of every moment of you life, and how happy you’ll be when you do it.

2008 Presbyteral Ordination, May 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Giving my mother, Theresa, a First Blessing. This was a great honor for me

She taught me by example that our lives are enhanced, not diminished, when we give ourselves in sacrifice to others. I ask for your continued prayers as I begin my ministry to the Christ’s Church, that I can “live out my faith” in a way that draws more and more people (including myself) closer and closer to Christ and to the God that loves all of us so much.

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Since Ordination, I’ve had many great honors, one of which was witnessing the marriage of my Uncle Johnny to his good friend Pat

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And now, just a bit about my recent events…

I had a very busy time right before our move from Brighton to Braintree which I told you about last week.

On Saturday June 21, I met with Archbishop Paul Bakyenga of Mbarara, Uganda at St. John’s Seminary.

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The archbishop is here to celebrate the archdiocese’s annual Mass for the Uganda Martyrs and to visit with members of his community. It was good to see him and I was very grateful to receive some gifts he brought from his country including candlesticks made of teakwood and some figurines depicting traditional warriors.

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We also hosted a Holy Hour at the seminary with pilgrims and families leaving for World Youth Day, which is being held this year July 15 through 20 in Sydney, Australia. There will be more than 225,000 pilgrims attending events each day and more than 500,000 are expected at the closing Mass held at the Randwick Racecourse.

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Later, I presided over a wedding at Mission Church on Saturday for two graduates from Boston University, Alexander Paiva and Kristi Prellwitz.

Alex and Kristi Paiva

Alexander had been altar server of mine for many years when I was the Bishop of Fall River. It was great to see other members of BU’s campus ministry community witness the ceremony, including the Brothers of Hope, Sister Olga and Father Paul Hellfrich, who prepared the couple for marriage and preached a beautiful homily.

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From there we went to Our Lady of the Assumption Church in East Boston for the institution of four seminarians as Lectors and the meal afterwards. We were so pleased to be able to celebrate these ministries and to gather together so many members of the Neocatechumenal Communities in the archdiocese. A number of seminarians from St. John’s also joined us.

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The ministries of Lector and Acolyte replace what used to be minor orders, but certainly it is important in the life of a priest. The Word of God and being a teacher of the faith is something that the Church, at this moment, holds up before the seminarians as they commit themselves to their training to be preacher and catechists and have that special love of the Word.

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I told the seminaries their being instituted as readers, at the very beginning of the Pauline Year — a time when the Church is calling a synod to look at the Word of God — just underscores the centrality of this part of their formation and their commitment to be men of the Book and teachers of the faith.

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Over the weekend, there was an all-day conference for the convention of the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate held at Merrimack College in North Andover. More than 800 Haitians from around the country attended.

Sunday morning, there was a Mass, which I celebrated and preached in Creole, at St. Ann Church in Somerville with two bishops, my old friend Bishop Guy Sansaricq, an auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn and Bishop Simon-Pierre Saint-Hillien, an auxiliary bishop from Port-au-Prince, along with Father Brian McHugh the pastor of St. Ann’s and our local priest, who is in-charge of Haitian ministries, Father Gabriel Michel and the Father Gabriel Lormeus, who works with the Haitian community at St. Ann’s. There were a number of concelebrating priests including a number of Haitian priests from my former diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, where we had a very large Haitian community as well.

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After the Mass, as Bishop Sansaricq and I greeted the people leaving the church, he recalled to me how it was almost 40 years ago that I had contacted him to get help to establish the Haitian ministry in Washington and how I had gone to some of these Haitian conventions in the past. It was nice to have them in the archdiocese and the music sung by the choir from St. John the Evangelist in North Cambridge was beautiful. The Mass was a fulsome celebration that lasted for three hours.

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We were also visited by Jim Towey, the new president of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., who, of course, for many years worked with Mother Theresa. In 2005, he was good enough to speak at our first Men’s Conference. We know that he is doing a wonderful job at St. Vincent’s and we are always happy to have him back in Boston. He gave me a beautiful book about Mother Theresa.

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We had a seminarians retreat in Wareham with Father Aquinas Guilbeau, a Dominican father who was ordained as priest of Lafayette and was a classmate at St. John’s with Father Dan Hennessey, our vocations director. He  and others preached the retreat. I was able to preach to them twice and have a Holy Hour and celebrate Mass and the Rosary. At the beginning at the summer, we try to bring all the seminarians from all over New England together, but not all of them can attend because they have different assignments. This year we had about 45 with us.

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Finally, this past Thursday June 26, I celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the Feast of St. Jose Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei with the local members of that community.

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They are an important presence in the archdiocese and provide a lot of spiritual guidance to many of our Catholics and they have an outstanding retreat house and do great work with the young people at the universities. Their assistance as confessors, spiritual directors and retreat masters is always much appreciated. The Mass is held every year at the cathedral and I was so happy this year I was able to celebrate it with them.

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Thank you, once again, for visiting my blog.

Know that I will be praying for you all, especially all those who will be traveling during this time.

Cardinal Seán

9 Responses to Reflections of a newly ordained priest


Comments

  1. Comment by Lenore Hughes | 2008/07/05 at 16:46:55

    I am one for the very lucky ones to have Fr Joe at our parish, Sacred Heart, and Cardinal Sean you could not have made a better choice for him, its only been a few weeks and he is loved an respected as if he has been here forever. Not only are we blessed with a new Church but we are bessed with a new priest.
    We all will be better Catholics because of him thanks for the blog!!!

  2. DEE
    Comment by DEE | 2008/07/11 at 23:11:02

    nice to read Fr. Mark Barr’s article about the Priesthood.
    And you will also note, Fr. Barr is special… He is from Natick – The Home of champions.

  3. DEE
    Comment by DEE | 2008/07/11 at 23:13:34

    met Fr Mazzone at Our Lady of the Assumption in E Boston a few weeks ago. Seminarians in the Neo Catechumen Way was invested(is that the word?) as Lectorsl He is a cutie and his Mom and family must be so proud of him. God Bless You, Fr. Mazzone.

  4. Comment by Kathleen Boyle Palkovic | 2008/07/14 at 16:49:12

    Dear Cardinal,
    I have been a TFPO since Sept. 2007. I started as a cordbearer and now have moved up. My first experience with the FPO’s was a vocation talk from Fr. John Sweeney from Emmitsburg, Md. His talk to my students was so moving that we continually invited him back for more. He made our Catholic faith more understandable, made us realize how important it is, and challenged all of us to be bold in our faith.
    I have just completed my first retreat with the FPO”s. It was life changing. I have become a better person (my husband’s remark). I have been more loving, forgiving, seeking to help others, more peaceful, and more involved in learning about my Catholic faith.
    I was looking forward to another educational and faith filled year with the FPO”s.
    So naturally, I was surprised and somewhat devastated at the “recall” of all the FPO”s back to Boston.
    I’m sure there were many good reasons that I will never know and I’m sure the decision was prayfully arrived at, but they were loved by so many. I loved their courage to speak the truth, live a life of penance, be an example of a true Catholic.

  5. Comment by Chris Carlin | 2008/10/17 at 21:47:31

    Congratulations Father Joe on your recent ordination to the priesthood. Your on-going sacrifice to Christ’s Church is an inspiration to a anemic society in need of the vitality of the Spirit, reflected in the windows of the soul’s of humanity.

    God’s love and grace be with you.

    Chris

  6. Comment by Jared | 2008/11/14 at 21:23:37

    Congrats to Fr. Joe. Ordination is a wonderful gift from and to God. I wish you well and many blessings.

  7. GMC
    Comment by GMC | 2009/01/05 at 03:22:45

    Congratulations to Father Joe. Your sacrificing yourself for the service of others is a wonderful thing.

  8. Comment by DAWN OLIVER | 2009/06/28 at 15:42:01

    How wonderful it is to be part of Christ’s Church on earth regardless of where you may live
    May God bless and reward you for bring the Good News to many

    Dawn Oliver
    Cape Town
    South Africa


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