Joy and gratitude filled the Cathedral of St. Joseph on May 14 as Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Connecticut ordained five men to the priesthood.
Candidates Iain Highet, Diego Jimenez Olaya, George Mukuka, Anthony Smith and Robert Turner were presented to the archbishop by Father Michael J. Dolan, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
The presence of virtually the entire community of nuns from the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, who came to celebrate the ordination of one of the members of their own spiritual family, spoke volumes about the significance of the newly ordained to the Church.
"We’re very grateful for this day and looking forward to having Brother Iain serve the Archdiocese and us," said Mother David Serna, of the Order of St. Benedict of the Strict Observance, abbess of Regina Laudis, "and we’re grateful for Archbishop Mansell’s vision to accept him for ordination."
Mother Augusta Collins was equally enthusiastic about the newly ordained priests. "It’s fantastic," she said. "We need them, we want them, and we’ve been waiting a long time to have someone regularly at the Abbey."
Archbishop Mansell, too, expressed "gratitude and appreciation to almighty God" for the gift of the "wonderful" candidates for priestly ordination, and encouraged them to "bring the love of Jesus Christ to all." Putting his comments in the context of ritual, images and traditions of the Church over the centuries, he noted that surveys of Catholics indicate that having parish priests is "at the top of their list" of requisites most essential to their faith.
"To be among God’s people and inspire them is essential to all," he said.
Those in the pews to witness the ordination, who came from parishes throughout the state and beyond, broke into applause at the conclusion of the two-hour liturgy in a welcoming gesture of approval and appreciation for the new priests.
"Our parish was blessed to have Father Smith with us for the last few months of his transitional diaconate," said Ronald Shea, a parishioner of and business manager at St. Mary Parish in Branford. "Our parishioners quickly adopted ‘Deacon Tony’ as one of our own," he said, "and the parish arranged for a bus to take about 30 parishioners to the Cathedral for the ordination. Needless to say, they were deeply moved by the beauty and spirituality of the rite, and were honored to be among those receiving Father Smith’s first blessing after Mass."
Elaine Huguley also was on hand. She is a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Bloomfield, where Father Mukuka had been serving. "It’s beautiful," she said about the ceremony. "He’s a wonderful man, very well-educated and working on his degree in canon law. We’re very happy for him."
Also happy was Alexander Highet, Father Highet’s father, who flew in from Montreal for the ceremony. "It’s a big day," he said. "We’re very pleased, very proud of him."
A moment of laughter was created by Father Vito C. DeCarolis, who had encouraged Father Highet to apply for ordination two years ago. After helping his protégé to don priestly vestments, he turned and raised his cane toward the congregation, shaking it to reflect his jubilation.
Among other parents expressing joy was Maria Jimenez Olaya. "This is a lot of happiness for us," she said about her son’s ordination. "It’s a miracle of God that he finally was able to fulfill his dream. He has a wonderful gift of words that will help him reach many people."
Stating a simple, "Oh, wow," in commenting about his son’s ordination, Arthur Smith noted, "We’ve waited a long time for this. There have been a lot of prayers. It’s a wonderful day."
Father Turner’s mother Alyce Miller, who came from South Carolina, was reflective. "When he made his first holy Communion," she recalled, "I encouraged him to become an altar server and said ‘I’ll give you a dollar for every time you serve.’ Within a few weeks, he came to me and said, ‘Mom, I don’t want the dollar. I like being up there.’ He was always so pious.
"Now it’s just unbelievable to see my son become a priest," she said. "He’s always been so spiritual. I know he’s going to do amazing things."
As for the new priests, the reality was hard to put into words. "It’s a wonderful moment," said Father Smith after the ceremony. "It’s a little overwhelming. I’m still just soaking it all in."
Father Jimenez Olaya was also trying to absorb it. "It’s a wonderful celebration; and I’m very happy and very surprised by all of this. I’m looking forward to celebrating my first Mass later today and working with the people in the parish where I’m assigned."
Added Father Mukuka, "Glory be, and thanks be to God. I’m very happy."
The principal concelebrants were Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza.
The more than 40 priests and 20 deacons were joined by many of the 43 seminarians currently in formation in the archdiocese.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.