Hello and welcome!
As I always like to do around this time of year, I have asked two of our newly ordinated priests to share their reflections with you. I always find their stories inspiring and I also think it is a good opportunity for people to get to know them as they begin their ministry in the archdiocese.
This week, I have asked Father Gerry Souza to share his story with you. Next week, we will hear from Father Jacques McGuffie.
– Cardinal Seán
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The day of my ordination to the priesthood was the most joyful day of my life. When I think back to the twenty-fifth of May, I cannot help but smile. When I began seminary at eighteen, Ordination to the Priesthood seemed so far away. I am grateful to the Church for all of the opportunities she has afforded me, and all of the people who have supported me through the years.
As we prostrated on the floor of the Cathedral during the chanting of the Litany of Saints, I thought to myself: “this is actually happening!” I was so happy that it was difficult for me not to smile.
Father Brian Flynn vested me in the priestly vestments. At first we had some difficulty getting the vestments on, but I think he got me all straightened out.
Cardinal Seán giving me the chalice with wine and paten with bread with the words, “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”
The Boston Ordination Class of 2013
Right after the Ordination I met my new pastor, Father Shawn Allen, who gave me the key to the rectory
That evening, my family had a little reception for me in Plymouth. Before I went to it, however, I stopped by Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish to fill my oil stocks in case someone needed anointing. When leaving the church, someone said, “Good afternoon, father.” I walked right past her until I realized that she was talking to me! I should have been more attentive because it was at Saint Kateri’s that I first pictured myself a priest.
Many friends, old and new, made it to Plymouth for the reception. I was particularly happy that Bishop Deeley and Bishop Kennedy made it down to Plymouth.
My first Sunday morning as a priest was relaxed because the First Mass of Thanksgiving was not until two o’clock in the afternoon. I think for the last time I got to enjoy Sunday breakfast at my parent’s house. That morning the fluffy pancakes and crispy bacon were particularly good. My grandmother always said the best way to begin the day is with your morning prayers and a hearty breakfast.
After breakfast, however, the phone rang and someone asked if “Father Gerald” was available. We figured it must have been some last minute detail about the Mass. But, the gentleman on the line explained that since it was a Sunday morning all of the other priests in town were busy celebrating Mass and that someone needed the Sacraments of the Church before he died. He asked if I could stop by before Mass. It was good that I filled up my oil stocks the day before because my first anointing preceded the first Mass. Several days later, his was the first funeral I presided at.
Since over twenty priests made it to Saint Kateri’s to concelebrate we had to turn the rectory into a big sacristy.
During the homily I preached about our redemption in Jesus Christ
I was bit nervous during the Mass so I was thankful that Father Mark Murphy always made sure that I was on the right page
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I was not aware of anything that was going on beyond the altar
The parishioners at Saint Kateri’s overwhelmed me with their hospitality in arranging for all of the details surrounding the First Mass. Everyone was very impressed with the wonderful spread they put out, including sundaes with all the toppings.
The weather was rainy that weekend, but the sun peaked out for a bit so people could receive first blessings outside.
There is a tradition of the newly ordained going to Regina Cleri, the priest’s retirement house of the Archdiocese of Boston, for Mass and Lunch soon after the ordination. While there, I met Monsignor Paul McManus who told me that he was the oldest priest in the diocese. I responded, “I’m the youngest.” He chuckled and said, “You have a great life ahead of you.” It was very humbling to be with so many priests who have served faithfully for so many years. I pray that I make it there someday!
The next weekend I went back to Saint Mary’s Parish in Lynn where I was assigned as a seminarian for two years. The people of Lynn really made me feel at home there during my time there. Also, Father Brian Flynn, Father Michael Ferraro, and Father Gabriel Lomeus gave me a fine example what priestly ministry is while I was there.
Members of the Nigerian Community
Cardinal Seán assigned me to the parishes of Billerica: Saint Andrew, Saint Mary and Saint Theresa of Lisieux. Life in the Billerica Collaborative is great. I am fortunate to share a rectory with Father Shawn Allen, Father Marty Dzengeleski, and Father Jack McCormick. Each of them has been generous in sharing their wealth of pastoral experience with me. In evenings at the rectory we gather for prayer before sharing a meal. The parishioners of Billerica have been kind in welcoming me and teaching me the geography of the Merrimack Valley. Life in the Billerica Collaborative is busy with all of the things that priests have to do: celebrating Mass, baptisms, confessions, visiting the sick, funerals, weddings, etc. Father Jack Shatzel, the priest who baptized me said, “Gerry, I’m glad you’re busy—that means you will stay out of trouble!”
I am so happy to be a priest! I am grateful for the formation I received at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and to Cardinal Seán for ordaining me. If you think you have a vocation to the priesthood please give everything to Our Lord. Our Lord takes nothing from us, yet he gives us everything. Please keep me in your prayers that I may always model my life after the example of the Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Follow me on Twitter: @fathersouza to see my experiences in Billerica and beyond.