Shortly before Cardinal Dolan ordained 10 men to the priesthood at St. Patrick’s Cathedral May 29, he began his homily with three Latin words “Gaudet Mater Ecclesia,” the same ones that Pope St. John Paul XXIII used to open the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962.
The words, meaning “Rejoice Mother Church,” perfectly captured the spirit of those assembled in great numbers at St. Patrick’s— from prelates, fellow priests, religious and deacons to seminary rectors, professors and students, and family members, friends and other supporters.
“On this day, these acres of the Lord’s vineyard known as the Archdiocese of New York echo those words,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Those ordained for the Archdiocese of New York were Father Matthew Breslin, Father Robert Carolan, Father Carmine Caruso, Father Steven Gonzalez, Father Kevin Panameno and Father Wesbee Victor.
Ordained for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were Father Frantisek Marie Chloupek, C.F.R., Father Ignatius Pio Mariae Doherty, C.F.R., Father Joseph Michael Fino, C.F.R., and Father Elijah Marie Perri, C.F.R.
Eight of the priests completed their formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, whose rector, Auxiliary Bishop James Massa of Brooklyn, participated in the Rite of Ordination.
The two others, Father Caruso and Father Victor, attended Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., and Theological College at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., respectively. Their rectors were also in attendance.
Pointing ahead to the Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity the next day when the new priests would offer their first Masses, the cardinal told them “to bask daily in the interior life of the Most Blessed Trinity in your soul.”
Through their ordination, the cardinal said, they would receive “an infusion” of sanctifying grace from the Blessed Trinity “so strong that it is tattooed on your soul in a sacramental character.”
Delivering his advice on their ordination day, Cardinal Dolan said the new priests should seek to remain in “the state of grace” by refreshing, reviving and restoring it through “your own daily offering of the Eucharist, and frequently in the sacrament of penance.”
Recalling the words of St. Bernard, the cardinal cautioned the new priests that before they can be a “channel” of God’s grace, they must be a “reservoir” in which it resides.
Speaking personally in English and Spanish to “dear moms and dads and families” of those he was ordaining, Cardinal Dolan added, “Hear me say thank you for sharing them with us.”
Cardinal Dolan offered a personal story from a brief conversation he had in Rome with Pope St. Paul VI shortly before traveling home to St. Louis for his own priestly ordination in 1976. The pontiff, whose feast day is May 29, inquired about the future cardinal’s parents and then offered him rosaries for each of them, with the words: “Tell them that the Pope thanks them for giving their son to the Church.”
The cardinal said his father, Robert, kept the papal rosary with him until his death the following year, when it was placed inside his casket, and that his mother, Shirley, still has hers to this day.
Joy and excitement filled the cathedral, as hundreds of people arrived for the two-hour-plus morning liturgy. While observing the 50 percent capacity norms in place for the pandemic, the crowd extended the length of the magnificent cathedral. Many concelebrating bishops and priests, along with permanent deacons, exchanged friendly greetings as they vested for Mass.
As the cardinal noted, this time also is jubilee season for many priests and religious marking anniversaries of ordination or profession. He congratulated Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the cathedral’s rector, who was marking the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination that day, which the congregation acknowledged with applause.
“It was a true joy to have the Church gathered around our bishop, a sense of new life and hope for the future,” Father Walter Genito Jr. told Catholic New York after the Mass.
“Here, as with my own ordination, this moment is for God’s priestly people,” he said. “We’re ordained for their sake.”
Father Genito was ordained two years ago at St. Patrick’s. Now assigned to St. Martin de Porres parish in Poughkeepsie, he serves with Father Matthew Furey, the pastor, and Father Charles Achi, the parochial vicar. “I love it,” he said. “I just finished my first year there.”
Nestor Gonzalez, the older brother of newly ordained Father Steven Gonzalez, spoke with CNY at the conclusion of the Mass when he was still in the pew with other family members, including his parents, Magaly and Nestor, and younger brother Jonathan. The Gonzalezes are parishioners of St. Lucy’s in the Bronx.
“We’ve always been very close. His journey as a priest brought us closer together, especially talking about Christ and His teachings,” said Nestor in speaking about Father Steven.
“He’s very passionate about being a Catholic priest—it’s his calling,” he added. “He’s told me many times that it gives him life to do this. My whole family is very proud.”
The Leone family, including seven young nieces and nephews, made hushed cries of “Uncle Bobby” when they glimpsed Father Robert Carolan in the passing procession of new priests from their pew before Mass began. Their mother, Pamela, is his older sister. She and her husband, who serves in the U.S. Army, brought their family from North Carolina for the ordination Mass.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Pamela, the oldest of four Carolan siblings. Also present were their sisters, Kim and Christine, and their families. Father Carolan has a total of 11 nieces and nephews.
The extended family was also blessed to have their parents, Robert and Caryn, in attendance. It was the first time Mr. Carolan had been permitted to travel since suffering a stroke nearly two years ago.
Pamela said her younger brother’s call to the priesthood became evident as he entered college. “He had a conversion of heart, starting to focus on the Lord,” she said. “It showed in everything he did—everything was focused around God.”
“He’s such a people person,” she said. “He touches everybody’s hearts…He’ll shepherd us all closer to the Lord by being his true self and answering the call.”