‘The Holy Spirit will be at work in you …’

Bishop Robert J. Baker presented this homily at the ordination of Fathers Philip Grant and Timothy Tebalt.
Today we celebrate a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit on two men called from our midst to serve as priests of God: Timothy Tebalt and Philip Grant. On behalf of the presbyterate of the Diocese of Charleston, I welcome you today to the order of the priesthood.

As your bishop I also welcome you to a deeper experience of the life of the Spirit on your journey to holiness of life. For the priesthood of Jesus Christ is principally a call to holiness, a call to be holy and to help all entrusted to your care to become holy people. Holiness is one of the four marks of our Catholic Church, a church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Our Holy Father in recent months has been encouraging the bishops of our church in the United States toward lives of holiness. He has told us that as bishops we must be at the forefront of this spiritual journey of sanctification. Our ministry of ecclesial service is marked by a personal quest for holiness and a vocation to sanctify others; it is a participation in Jesus’ own ministry and directed toward building up his church. Consequently, it should avoid any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or the recourse to secular models of leadership. What is true of the bishops’ call to holiness is also true of all our priests. The church today does not need more priests. The church needs more holy priests.

The credibility of the church’s proclamation of the Good News is intimately linked to the commitment of her bishops and priests and all her members to personal sanctification.  Principally, your ministry, Phil and Tim, is about sanctification, your personal sanctification and that of the people you are called to serve. The Holy Spirit will be at work in you and through you to complete that work of sanctification.

While the holiness of the church on earth remains real, it is in us yet imperfect. That holiness is a gift and a call, a constitutive grace and a summons to constant fidelity to that grace. Nourish the life of the Spirit by daily prayer and contemplation of holy Scripture, daily celebration of holy Mass, daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours in its entirety, and regular recourse to the sacrament of penance.

In this way you will be nourishing the life of the Spirit within you and nourishing the spiritual life of the people you are called to serve. Anything less in your priesthood will open your own life to those spiritual land mines that will undermine your ministry and weaken your effectiveness as a priest. With these supports, your priestly ministry will flourish. God will be your partner in all you do. And myriads of people will find their way to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.