A blessed occasion: three receive holy orders


CHARLESTON – Fathers C. Thomas Miles, Michael J. Oenbrink and Robert J. Sayer have ended one journey and now begun a more challenging path.

The three men were ordained last Saturday at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in a standing room only celebration before relatives, friends and teachers. Bishop David B. Thompson in his welcoming remarks singled out the families of the new ordinands for “giving to the Church of Charleston their own flesh and blood.” He said that they would now participate in the priestly act and have new insight into the words, “This is my Body, This is my Blood.”

The Bishop noted the presence in the sanctuary of Auxiliary Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Bishop Aymond is the president/rector of Notre Dame Seminary in the Crescent City. He preached the homily at the first Mass of Father Miles on James Island the following day.

In final comments, “thanking those who make this occasion so glorious and all who participate in this rite,” the Bishop pointed to the large stage lights erected at the side altars which bathed the sanctuary in white. He said the lights were to aid a camera crew filming the ordinations for a video as part of a vocations recruitment effort by the diocese.

The Rite of Ordination began with the calling and presentation of the candidates. After the election by the Bishop, the assembly demonstrated their consent to the ordination of the three men with thunderous applause.

After the Bishop’s examination of conscience of the candidates and their promise of obedience, the men prostrated themselves on the cathedral floor while cantors William Schlitt and Lara D’Eugenio led the diocesan choir and assembly in chanting the Litany of the Saints.

With the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration by Bishop Thompson, the three men went from deacons to priests of the Church. The priests of the diocese  the presbyterate  and other participating priests and concelebrants filed past the ordinands for the laying on of hands.

Clergy who had helped the new priests during their discernment helped them to vest in stoles and chasubles.

Father Miles was assisted by Msgr. Thomas A. Evatt, Pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken; Father Oenbrink by Father Ronald R. Cellini, Pastor of St. Peter Parish in Beaufort; and Father Sayer by Augustinian Father Augustin Esposito, Sayer’s spiritual director from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Each man went forward for Bishop Thompson to anoint his hands. Later, they received the chalice and paten from the Bishop.

Bishop Thompson gave each new priest the Sign of Peace. The other priests followed his lead as the “Friendship Hymn” was sung by the diocesan choir.

Family members brought the gifts to the Bishop for the preparation of the altar. They included Judy Masters and Mary Rose Tomsic, Dr. and Mrs. Philip G. Oenbrink, and Mr. and Mrs. Douglas J. Sayer.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist began with the three new priests standing by their Bishop to consecrate the bread and wine.

After the Mass, a reception was held in the Cathedral Center to honor the newly ordained men.

At this time, the three walked across the street from the Cathedral to Bishop Thompson’s office in the Broad Street Chancery as he presented the men with their faculties and gave them their first assignments (see box).

On June 27, all of the newly ordained presided at the Eucharist for the first time. Father Miles celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at Church of the Nativity in Charleston; Father Oenbrink at St. Peter Parish in Beaufort; Father Sayer, at St. Thomas the Apostle in North Charleston.

More on the priests’ Masses of Thanksgiving will be in the July 15 issue of The Miscellany.