Cardinal Dolan ordained 14 men to the priesthood at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Memorial Day weekend—nine for the archdiocese and five for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. It was the largest class in his seven years as Archbishop of New York.
The cardinal served as principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass before a vast congregation May 28, the day before the feast of Corpus Christi.
The restored cathedral was resplendent for the Saturday morning liturgy.
The new priests are Father Christian Ikechukwu Amah, 31; Father Hartley Stockton Bancroft III, 28; Father Thomas Michael Colucci, 60; Father Antonio Maria Diez de Medina, C.F.R., 36; Father Dismas Marie Kline, C.F.R., 35; Father Jesús Ledezma Castro, 31; Father Xavier Mariae Meiergerd, C.F.R., 37; Father Innocent Mariae Montgomery, C.F.R., 31; Father Cruz Alejandro Sánchez Mares, 35; Father Jean-Pierre Anthony Thomas Seon, 35; Father James Anthony Martin Sheridan, 37; Father Bernardino Maria Soukup, C.F.R., 40; Father Jon Norman Francis Tveit, 27; and Father John Wilson, 31.
Twelve are graduates of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie. Two—Father Ledezma and Father Wilson—are studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
The Church “rejoices,” the cardinal said in his homily, which he delivered in English and Spanish, “in the gift of these 14 new priests.”
“We do indeed rejoice with you and because of you, ordinandi, praising Jesus for choosing you to love Him and His Church with passion and fidelity and generosity,” he said.
There is also rejoicing with parents, families, friends and neighbors, who encouraged the men “to cast aside their doubts and fears and instead ‘cast out in the deep,’” the cardinal said.
“To ordain you on Memorial Day weekend,” the cardinal added, “commissions you to keep the memory of Jesus alive.”
Two fire trucks, including one from Ladder 21, were parked outside the cathedral as a reminder to Father Colucci of another brotherhood to which he once belonged: the FDNY.
“I’m very happy ‘the brothers’ are here,” said Father Colucci, a retired FDNY captain who was also a Benedictine monk. He was raised in St. Francis of Assisi parish in West Nyack.
After the liturgy, he ducked outside where bagpipers from the department played. There he was greeted with a salute from multitudes of the department. “I was choked up,” said Father Colucci, who gave them a blessing. “It was all in all a great day—for my family, for the Church, for the fire department. I’m just very, very humble that the Lord called me to this.”
Among his intentions at the Ordination Mass were those who perished on 9/11, including a number of his comrades. “They’re always in my heart,” he said. “I’ll always remember them.”
Robert “Red” Parker, also a retired FDNY captain, remembered Father Colucci as dependable and dedicated. “Whatever position he had,” Parker said, “you knew he’d be where he was supposed to be, doing exactly what he was supposed to do. He was a fireman of the people, he was a fire officer of the people,” Parker said. “He’ll be a priest of the people.”
Colucci’s parents, Donald and Marilyn, both 86, are grateful God has granted them the longevity to witness their second-born son become a priest.
“This is the milestone,” Mr. Colucci said.
“It’s a very proud day,” said Mrs. Colucci, who recalled one family dinner when 10-year-old “Tommy” declared, “I’m going to do something great someday.”
Among the jubilant family members who arrived from Nigeria for Father Amah were his mother Elizabeth, 62, and sister Marylyn, 32.
“We’re so happy, we’re so happy,” repeated Ms. Amah, who was thinking about all the times as children she and her brother sang together in church and went to catechism classes. “We were just good.”
Mrs. Amah said her “prayerful” son had a “charism for the priesthood when he was a child.”
“It’s such a happy day,” said Father Tveit, whose home parish is St. Joseph’s in Middletown. “It’s an incredible privilege to be ordained, and with these men that I’ve been in the seminary with for years now. God willing, we’ll be able to serve the Church for many, many years to come.”
That night he planned to pray “that God will give me the grace to be a good and holy priest, and to help many souls, and bring them to him.”
Father Sheridan, who was born in London and raised in Ireland, said his prayer is that “my every thought, word and deed will now coincide with the reality of who I am—another Christ.”
“God is so good,” said Father Wilson, a native of Hebron, Conn., who is a former journalist for the New York Post. “I can’t wait to every day offer the Mass and serve his people. I’m just filled with gratitude.”
Father Bancroft, whose home parish is St. Mary’s in Washingtonville, said the laying on of hands by all the priests present was a highlight of the rite for him as it signaled “the collegial nature” of the presbyterate. “It’s not just us priests by ourselves, but us priests working together, to help bring people to heaven.”
He has been praying for the past year for the people to whichever parish he would be assigned, which he now knows is St. Martin de Porres in Poughkeepsie.
The laying on of hands was also a pivotal moment in the rite for Father Mares. “I could feel the Holy Spirit flowing through the hands of the priests,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
He will be assigned to St. Joseph’s parish in Middletown. “I love them even before I know them. I am sure that I will have a blessed ministry with them.”
Once neighbors in their native Wichita, Kan., Father Meiergerd and Father Montgomery, both CFRs, were ordained one after the other. (Father Montgomery is a triplet; his twin brother is Brother Angelus, C.F.R.)
“We had a moment right before we walked out” into the nave of the cathedral “and actually afterwards as well, just reflecting upon how the Lord has brought us so far,” Father Meiergerd said, from “the days when I was babysitting him as a little boy to now the day that we’re both offering our lives to the Lord as priests.”
“It goes back to the reality of God’s amazing and mysterious plan,” he added.
“It’s surreal,” Father Meiergerd said of “this most sacred day.”
“I keep having to look down at the chasuble and realizing, ‘This is it.’”
Before leading the congregation in the “Salve Regina,” Cardinal Dolan entrusted the newly ordained priests to the Blessed Mother, “the mother of the first priest,” Jesus. (The class has placed itself under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. John Bosco.)
The cardinal then asked the auxiliary bishops present, and the newly ordained priests, to come forward to administer the final blessing.