Oratory gains new priest with ordination of Joseph Pearce


ROCK HILL — It was a day of celebration for the Congregation of St. Philip Neri on July 24 as Joseph Francis Pearce was ordained to the priesthood for the order by Bishop David B. Thompson at St. Anne Church.

Pearce joined The Oratory in 1996, and completed his theological studies at Chicago Theological Union, where he earned a master’s degree in liturgy. He also graduated from Belmont Abbey College in 1981, and received formation in the Franciscans of the Third Order Regular from 1983-86.

In 1990, Pearce joined the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and served in China.

His diaconal ministry was at St. Philip Neri in Fort Mill, but for six months prior to ordination to the diaconate he served at St. Anne Parish.

Lectors for the Saturday morning Mass were Pearce’s sister, Eileen Hoefling, and his brother, David Pearce.

Brother-in-law John Hoefling from the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., served as the deacon for the ordination.

The ceremony began after the Gospel. The Bishop, wearing his miter, sat at his chair. The candidate was then called by the deacon. The candidate answered “present” and went to the bishop. A priest designated by the bishop, Oratorian Father Joseph A. Wahl, said, “Most Reverent Father, holy mother Church asks you to ordain this man, our brother, for service as a priest.” The bishop asked, “Do you judge him to be worthy?” and Father Wahl answered, “After inquiry among the people of Christ and upon the recommendation of those concerned with his training, I testify that he has been found worthy.”

Bishop Thompson then addressed the people and the candidate on the duties of a priest in his homily. In his opening remarks, the Bishop thanked Pearce’s parents, Albert and Joan Maude Pearce of Queens, N.Y., for presenting their son to the Church. He said that it was not only their son Joseph’s ordination, but their ordination too.

The retired prelate of the Diocese of Charleston emphasized to the soon-to-be-ordained priest that, “you have not walked alone. Remember them in your role as a priest. Thank these priests, deacons, religious, and lay men and women. They are special members of your family now. Look to them for support.”

In particular, Bishop Thompson congratulated the parishioners of St. Anne Church. “God has favored you with the ordination of a priest. Treasure this occasion. Ask the intercession of St. Anne for blessings upon the priesthood.”

After the Bishop’s comments, Pearce stood before Bishop Thompson as he asked him a series of questions.

The future Oratorian cleric then knelt before the ordinary and, placing his hands between those of the Bishop, promised respect and obedience to him.

Afterwards, the whole congregation was invited to stand and pray and then kneel during the Litany of Saints, while the candidate prostrated himself before the altar. The litany was sung by Ellen Oberer and the choir of St. Philip Neri. Upon its completion the attendees stood as the candidate went to Bishop Thompson and knelt before him. The Bishop laid his hands on Pearce’s head in silence. Next, all the priests present laid their hands upon the candidate in silence.

With hands extended over Pearce, Bishop Thompson said the prayer of consecration. Following the prayer, the Bishop sat while the newly ordained Father Pearce stood.

Oratorian Fathers Edward McDevitt and John Giuliani then assisted in vesting him in a chasuble and stole as it is worn by priests. Next, Bishop Thompson anointed the palms of the new priest as he knelt before him. The Bishop said, “The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.”

Deacon Jim Hyland assisted Bishop Thompson in receiving the gifts at the offertory. Among the gift bearers were Father Pearce’s parents. The deacon then brought the chalice and the paten to the Bishop, who handed them to the new priest as he knelt before him. Bishop Thompson said, “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

Lastly, the Bishop stood and exchanged the sign of peace with Father Pearce.

Following the Mass, a reception was held for the newest priest in the Diocese of Charleston inside the St. Anne Parish center.

Father Pearce celebrated his first Mass at St. Martha Church in Point Pleasant, N.J., on July 31.