Ordination to the Priesthood

It is my hope and prayer that each of you has seen by now my announcement that the general dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will end with the weekend of June 26-27. There remain, of course, some among the faithful for whom particular circumstances—illness, advanced age, or other serious reasons—may continue to excuse them from Sunday Mass. But for the majority of Catholics in the Diocese of La Crosse, the time has come to return in earnest to the gift of the sacred liturgy, our birthright as Catholics and the purpose for which we were born: the work of glorifying God and redeeming our corner of the world to God in Christ.

Christians are the soul of the world—not because of anything we’ve done through our own power or position in the world, but because we have been chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and animated by the Spirit to restore all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). It is an awesome calling, one which brings both great graces and serious obligations.

The sacraments empower us for this life-saving mission. As I’ve written to you in recent blogs, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood transforms worthy recipients into the Body of Jesus—Corpus Christi. The Holy Oils used in the Church’s various sacraments and sacramentals continue to conform us to Jesus, whom the Holy Spirit anointed with power. The sacrament of Holy Orders represents another of Jesus’ seven-fold gifts. And the ordination of priests—which the Diocese will celebrate on Saturday, June 26—is an especially great grace as we emerge out of darkness and into the light.

The ordination of three men—Deacons Arturo Vigueras, Timothy Reither, and Eric Mashak—on the morning of June 26 coincides with the lifting of the dispensation from Mass beginning with Saturday evening Mass on that same day. Moreover, the ordination of these three men stands as a true bridge into a new life for all Catholics of the Diocese. For a priest is a bridge, one who mediates our relationship with the Father and allows passage from a fallen and wounded world to a place of joy, peace, and communion with God. Please pray with me that the ordination of these men to the presbyterate of the Diocese will usher in a new period of post-pandemic faith among us.

Even though ordained priests stand in the place of Christ the High Priest, they cannot do their work alone. The Church expects the laity to assist them. Indeed, it’s Christ’s will that all of the baptized do so. You, the laity, are, in the words of Pope Pius XII, “on the front lines of Church life.” You live and work in the world’s households, schools, businesses, government, and industries in a way that priests do not. And you, the baptized, are especially equipped to redeem these arenas for Christ: by proclaiming the truths of faith, by serving in Christ’s name those he loves, and—as sharers in the priesthood of Jesus by your baptism—reconciling and restoring all things in Christ by prayer and sacrifice. Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, who grew rich in her faith during her time here in the Diocese of La Crosse, put it nicely when she expressed the relationship between the ordained priest and the laity: “The work of the ordained minister, of the professional minister, is to enable the people of God to do the work of the Church.”

We are a priestly people, whether we share Jesus’ priestly mission through our common baptism in Christ or, as the three men to be ordained later this month will experience, by the laying on of hands at sacred ordination. In either case, we are called to animate God’s world—now more than ever! As we return to Mass, let us live by the Eucharist, receive the Holy Spirit with open hearts, and work with our pastors to bring all in our influence to God the Father. It’s what we were born—and re-born—to do.

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!