By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — On an early summer Saturday before brother priests, friends and family, Gregory Brian Wilson was ordained to the priesthood through the imposition of hands by Bishop Robert J. Baker at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on June 9.
For Greg Wilson, it was the culmination of a journey that began when he was 11 years old, but more on that later.
The morning began with a procession of clergy that included Bishop Baker, retired Bishop David B. Thompson, as well as dozens and dozens of priests, permanent deacons and seminarians from across South Carolina.
The pews were filled with well-wishers, as well as a large contingent bussed in from St. Joseph Church in Columbia, whose choir Wilson has called his “second family.”
After the proclamation of the Gospel by Deacon Joseph Cahill, associate director of vocations for the Diocese of Charleston, the candidate was called forward by name and announced himself by saying “present” before approaching the bishop.
Father Dennis Willey, pastor of Nativity Parish on James Island and director of vocations for the diocese, presented the candidate, speaking on behalf of the church and then asking the bishop to ordain the candidate.
The bishop declared his approval, and the assembly burst into the applause of assent.
In his homily, addressed to Wilson, Bishop Baker said, “Priests are a special gift of God. Holy priests are the hope of the church. You are a special gift of God. You are the hope of the church.”
He added, “The words of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in today’s first reading and which Jesus quoted in the synagogue in Nazareth, are being fulfilled in our midst today as you, Gregory Brian Wilson, are called to serve as a priest of God in the Diocese of Charleston.”
“The spirit of the Lord is upon you,” said the bishop, “that same spirit present in the life of Jesus.”
Bishop Baker told Wilson that he, “will be among your people as Jesus was, as one who serves. You will be serving your people as a teacher of the word, minister of the sacraments, and leader of the Christian community.”
Continuing, the bishop noted, “Gregory Brian Wilson, your pilgrimage of faith, your walk of faith with the Lord from the day of your birth on Oct. 14, 1972, with the prayerful support and example of family members and friends, has led you here to this altar. God has sustained you until now. As you continue your pilgrimage in faith and fidelity, God will sustain you and bless you abundantly until he calls you to be with him for eternity.”
During the ordination rite the candidate declared his willingness to fulfill the duties of the priesthood, and he knelt before the bishop and, with his hands between those of the bishop, promised obedience to him and his successors.
Following the litany of saints, the bishop in silence laid his hands on the candidate, a gesture sacred in Scripture and the tradition of the church. Each priest then did the same.
Msgr. Charles Rowland, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Columbia, then vested Father Wilson.
After the bishop anointed the hands of the new priest, the oil, the bread and wine were brought forward by his parents, George and Karen Wilson.
The bishops and priests then greeted Father Wilson one at a time with the sign of peace, as they welcomed the newly ordained into the presbyteral order.
In his closing remarks, Bishop Baker thanked Father Wilson’s parents, his brother, George Wilson Jr., and sisters, Amy Wilson and Robin Jenkins, all seated in the front row, “for their loyal and loving support.” He added, “You were critical to him in the past and will be in the future.”
He also thanked the new priest’s former seminary rector, Benedictine Father Thomas Acklin from St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., as well as the current rector there.
The bishop then recognized Msgr. Rowland and the people of St. Joseph’s for the part they played in Father Wilson’s faith journey.
Lastly, Bishop Baker reserved special recognition for Michael Timlin, seated near the rear of the Cathedral. Timlin was the 12-year-old boy whose gesture of making the sign of the cross following a school prayer in St. Matthew’s caused the then 11-year-old Wilson to begin researching the Catholic Church.
The young man, along with his wife and baby, received a roaring ovation from the gathered faithful.
Music at the ceremony was provided by members of the St. Joseph Choir, Christ Our King Choir, and Cathedral Schola, with Mark Thomas as the director of music.
Following the Mass, Father Wilson journeyed to the Cathedral Center, where he spent a couple of hours giving individual blessings to well-wishers, friends, family and brother priests.
The following day, Father Wilson celebrated a noon Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, with Father Acklin preaching the homily.
Father Wilson has been assigned as parochial vicar for Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant.
PHOTO: Father Greg Wilson bestows his blessing on Michael Timlin, a childhood friend who sparked Wilson’s interest in Catholics by making the sign of the Cross during school prayer.