CHARLESTON—Newly ordained Father Renaurd West said that even though he is in awe of his new role as a priest, he also feels right at home.
Father West was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on June 7.
“It’s still pretty surreal to me,” he said. “I sort of think to myself during moments of quiet ‘Wow, I’m a priest!’ It feels pretty amazing but it also feels pretty natural because I’ve believed for a long time that this is what God called me to do.”
Forty-two priests vested for the ceremony, which was also attended by several of his former classmates from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmittsburg, Md.
The ordination drew a large crowd of well-wishers, with many people standing in the back of the Cathedral. Groups came from around the state to offer support, including Scout troops from St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken, and the confirmation class from St. Andrew Church in Clemson.
Bishop Guglielmone said it was especially appropriate that Father West was receiving the sacrament on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, which also falls on June 7.
“This is a beautiful feast on which to celebrate an ordination, because it is a celebration of the immense love of Christ for us all,” he said. “He is the Christ whose heart bleeds for us, the one who came to serve and never to be served, the one willing to die for us even though we remain in sin. As a priest, you are called to act in the person of Christ.”
Bishop Guglielmone told Father West to commit himself to the people he is called to serve, to be compassionate, caring and to most of all show love to all. He also called on him to imitate Pope Francis in living a simple life of service and outreach to the poor.
“We thank you for saying yes to the call that I’m sure has been nurtured in your heart for a long time,” the bishop said.
After the ceremony, Father West’s parents said the day was a dream come true for their son.
“I think it’s fantastic, it’s an answer to a long held prayer and a blessing for all of us,” said his father, James Renaurd West Sr. “I was in awe during the ordination. I felt proud and I felt blessed.”
“It’s really hard to believe because he has wanted this for so long,” said his mother June West. “All I ever wanted was for him to be happy, and he knows this is where he was supposed to be.”
Several other members of the new priest’s family attended, including his grandmother, Etta Webster, who traveled from Capitol Heights, Md. Webster said she was determined to attend the ordination even though she has had some health problems.
Father West did not grow up Catholic and attended several different churches as a child. His mother said he was first drawn to the Church while attending high school in Spartanburg, where his Catholic history teacher showed him a traditional Roman missal.
The missal was in Latin, she said, and her son could read most of it because he had started studying the language while still in middle school.
That simple introduction to the Missal started him on his journey of faith. Father West, 28, became a Catholic in 2001 and soon discovered he had a call to the priesthood.
He showed his love for Latin during the reception afterward, when he offered blessings in the ancient language to people who stood in a long line that wound around the parish hall.
“I would not have let any sickness let me miss this,” she said. “It was the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced.”
Looking back, she said her grand- son showed signs all his life that he would be good in the role of spreading the Gospel.
“He has been very helpful all his life,” she said. “His entire personality will make him a good priest, especially his willingness to listen.”
Father West celebrated his first Mass in the Extraordinary Form at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island on June 8. The next day, he crossed the state to celebrate Mass in the Ordinary Form at St. Mary Church in Greenville.
His first assignment will be as parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton.
Photos by Douglas Deas for The Miscellany