I was ordained to the Priesthood at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brighton, NY. I had been assigned to the parish to serve there during my deacon year after completing my studies in theology at St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester. During that year at Our Lady of Lourdes I had the privilege of being assisted by a committee of lay people from the parish. This “Intern Committee” acted as a sounding board for me, they supported me, prayed for me and more importantly gave me feedback on how I was doing in my ministry and advice as to ways to improve. This group of parishioners, as well as other members of the parish, were very helpful in planning the ordination with me and the reception that followed. One of the committee members even made my vestments for the ordination, another parishioner designed the logo for my invitations and the ordination program, and still another did all the lettering in calligraphy. A large number of parishioners organized the reception and provided the refreshments for the reception that followed the ordination in the parish school hall. I was truly blessed and grateful for all that they did for me.
The evening before the ordination the Sisters of St. Joseph who lived in the Convent at Our Lady of Lourdes organized and led a prayer service for me. Many of my family and friends and parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes were there praying for me. The Sisters had people write notes to me expressing their support and prayers. I ran across them last year and found the words they had written so many years ago still giving me hope and strength.
One thing that happened before the ordination that could have been a disaster, but that I now look back as humorist, was when my Grandmother Clarke fell going into the church corridor! My Mom was helping my Grandmother walk up to the church and suddenly my Grandmother fell down face first right into the Pachysandra bed! In panic I asked Gram if she was alright, she responded, “I’ll be okay, just let me lie here awhile.” And she was right; she was okay! My Mom was the one who was worse off; she banged up her knees on the sidewalk as Gran‘s falling pulled her down as well. Fortunately both were able to be there for my ordination as was the rest of my immediate family. My sister Sharon and her family were there from Holland Patent, NY, my sister Cathy flew in from St. Louis, MO with one of my nephews on her lap, and my brother David was there from the state of Washington. That in itself was a great blessing, there were many times through the years since we grew up when my parents and all of my siblings and I had been together. We made sure we had a photo taken of us to mark the occasion. It made a great present for my parents who celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary nine days after I was ordained.
The ordination itself took place on a Friday evening at Our Lady of Lourdes. Bishop Matthew Clark presided, who had presided as well at my Deacon Ordination that had taken place at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester on October 4th, 1980. At both ordinations the event that touched me the most and filled me with God’s love was when I was lying prostrate on the floor and the Litany of Saints was being sung. I felt so strongly the love and support of all those singing the litany and the love and support of all the Saints we were invocating. It drove home to me the oneness we have in Christ as his living body, the Church on earth and the victorious Saints in heaven! The laying on of hands by Bishop Clark and each one of the priests who were present was a humbling experience for me in which I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit strengthen me.
Many years have passed since that wonderful day, and I continue to count my blessings for all the people God has sent my way as I minister in His Holy Name. I pray that more young people will hear God calling them to the priesthood and to lives of service to God’s people, His Church. I thank God for leading me each day in this rewarding journey of faith.
Happy Easter and May God bless you, Father Bill