By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — Years of work and study came to fruition July 15 as Deacons Christopher Michael Danel and Ronald John Farrell were ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Bishop Robert J. Baker presided at the rite of ordination, assisted by retired Bishop David B. Thompson and numerous priests in service to the diocese. The diocesan choir provided music for a cathedral filled with family members and well-wishers of the two men anticipating their ordination.
Following the Scripture readings and the proclamation of the Gospel by Deacon Gregory Wilson, Father Dennis Willey, vocations director, called forth the two candidates and presented them to the bishop and congregation. They were accepted by the bishop and received with thunderous applause by the people.
The candidates stood and listened as Bishop Baker in his homily thanked the Lord for this blessing of the two men being ordained priests, their families, their friends, and all in the Diocese of Charleston.
“An answer is being given to the plea of Jesus in the Gospels and our prayer as well, ‘Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather his harvest. The harvest is good, but the laborers are scarce,'” said the bishop.
He continued, “Today, you are called to bring Christ’s sacramental presence to the world through your priesthood, which is fundamentally the priesthood of Jesus Christ. As teacher of the Word, minister of the sacraments, and leader of the community, you bring the presence of Christ in a unique sacramental way to our diocese and our world.”
The bishop said, “In the sacrament of Holy Orders it is the priestly, prophetic, and kingly presence of Christ that you witness as minister of the sacraments, teacher of the Word, and leader of the community.”
Bishop Baker then made one simple request of the two candidates. “The Lord today is not just calling you to priesthood but to holiness of life through the priesthood. That holiness will only happen if you maintain a deep, abiding prayer relationship with the Lord in your days as a priest. If you do so, I assure you the Lord will accompany you faithfully through all the joys and, yes, even the struggles, of your pastoral ministry.
“The daily demands on our priesthood and pastoral responsibilities can easily chip away at our life of prayer,” the bishop stressed. “And when we stop praying, we wander in our direction in life, we waver in our zeal in serving the Lord, and we lose our pastoral effectiveness. When we stop praying, we stop hearing the Lord tell us he loves us, and we stop telling him the same.
“Listen to the Lord in your daily prayer,” the bishop told the two men, “and hear him say to you, his chosen servants, ‘Ron, I love you. Chris, I love you.’
“In his spirit and through his Son, Jesus, God the Father wants to share that message with you every moment of every day,” the bishop emphasized.
He then told an anecdote of when, shortly after he was ordained a priest, one of the faculty members at his seminary told him, “If you do nothing more than not get in the way of the Lord, you will succeed as a priest.”
“By daily faith-filled prayer we are able to avoid getting in the way of the Lord so that he will use us and work through us for the good of all we’re called to serve,” Bishop Baker said.
“Though the Lord calls us to holiness of life,” said the bishop, “He knows he calls people who are not perfect. Look at the twelve he chose as his Apostles. Through our closeness to the Lord in prayer, he is able to transform us as he did to his chosen ones who stayed close to him.”
Bishop Baker said, “I think of the Vietnamese archbishop who is with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, who shared the fruits of his life of prayer with those who were at the Encuentro 2000 gathering in Los Angeles last week.
“Archbishop Francis Nguyen Van Thuan had been a prisoner of the Communist regime in Vietnam for many years and survived that terrible ordeal through his deep faith and daily prayer in prison.
“It was in a prison cell that he really discovered Christ in a profound way,” said Bishop Baker. “He spoke of his discovery in prayer of Christ in a new way, as he discovered what he somewhat facetiously referred to as the ‘defects of Jesus,'” which are actually attributes of God.
“Archbishop Van Thuan became a man of prayer and in his life of prayer he came to discover and love these ‘defects of Jesus,'” said Bishop Baker.
“He came to see Jesus as his God and his all. He came to love everyone and all things in Jesus. How wonderful his life of prayer was! And how blessed!” said the bishop. “May, you, Chris and Ron, discover the Jesus of your priesthood in the same way as the archbishop, through your daily devoted life of prayer. And you will come more and more each day to see Jesus as your Lord and God and to love everyone and all things in Jesus. Your priesthood will reflect back the priesthood of Jesus, and you will lead many people through him to God the Father, in the Holy Spirit. May the Lord bless your priestly life as he enables you to be men of prayer who are led by their life of prayer to then become men of action.”
Following the homily, the candidates responded “I am” to questions posed by the bishop, affirming to the people of God their intent to serve with a clear conscience and a prayerful spirit. Then, kneeling before the bishop, they promised obedience to him and his successors.
The men then lay prostrate in the center aisle as the congregation called upon the intercession of the saints.
They then knelt before Bishop Baker, and he laid his hands upon them individually in a silent prayer, an action signifying conferral of the Holy Spirit. This gesture was repeated by each priest present for the ordination and was followed by the prayer of consecration spoken by the bishop.
After the bishop’s prayer of consecration, which completes the action of ordination, the newly ordained priests were vested with chasuble and stole assisted by chosen friends. Father Concetto Occhipinti, prefect of the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, vested Father Danel, and Msgr. Christopher Lathem, pastor of St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville, vested Father Farrell. The bishop anointed the hands of the new priests with chrism to signify the priest’s ministry in the church to heal, sanctify and offer prayer for God’s people.
The offertory gifts, brought to the altar by John Reilly and Mr. and Mrs. Pietro Leonardi, friends of the newly ordained, were then presented to the bishop.
Finally, the new priests then joined the bishop around the altar for the liturgy of the word.
Following the Mass, the congregation enthusiastically gathered to greet the newest priests at a reception at the Cathedral Center.
Afterwards, the two were given their first priestly assignments by Bishop Baker. Father Danel will be serving at Corpus Christi Church in Lexington, while Father Farrell was appointed to St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach.
The following day, on July 16, the two ordinands celebrated Masses of Thanksgiving. Father Danel celebrated an afternoon liturgy at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, while Father Farrell presided at the Eucharist at St. Michael Church in Garden City.