Cardinal Wuerl ordains four new priests for archdiocese, including pioneer members of Saint John Paul II Seminary
June 17, 2017
During a June 17 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl ordained four new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington: Father Andrew Wakefield, Father Benjamín García Domínguez, Father Robert Kilner, and Father Jorge Ernesto Ubau López. Cardinal Wuerl was joined by Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry Knestout, Mario Dorsonville, and Roy Campbell; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington; and about 120 concelebrating priests.
“These men, soon to be priests, are charged to continue what Jesus began,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily, after he had approved the candidates to be ordained. “They will stand in the midst of the faith community as an icon of Christ. Thus, the priest, as image of Christ, proclaims the Word in season and out, whether convenient or inconvenient, in living continuity with the apostolic tradition.”
Three of the priests being ordained – Father Wakefield, Father Kilner, and Father Garcia – were members of the first ordination class for the Saint John Paul II Seminary in Washington, which Cardinal Wuerl founded in 2011. Following the homily, those three men and Father Ubau individually knelt before the cardinal to promise respect and obedience to him and his successors.
The congregation, which included about 2,000 people, then sang a Litany of the Saints, while the four men lay prostrate on the ground, which the cardinal noted symbolizes their total giving of self and echoes Jesus’ words, “No one takes my life from me. I freely lay it down.”
The focal point of the ordination Mass, the cardinal said, is the laying on of hands, which follows the litany. Each priest to be ordained once again individually knelt before the cardinal, who silently placed his hands upon each man’s head and asked the Holy Spirit to fill them with wisdom and grace. Then, all the priests processed past them, individually laying their hands upon their heads. Afterward, the cardinal said a prayer of ordination, and the new priests were all vested with a stole and chasuble, assisted by a priest whom they had chosen.
The cardinal then anointed the hands of the newly ordained with chrism, and presented them with the bread and wine as a sign of presiding at the Eucharist. Then, he gave each of them a sign of peace, which was also offered to them by their brother priests, and the newly ordained priests remained at the altar to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time.
“Never is a priest more the presence of Jesus - the icon of Christ - than when he stands at the altar to make present once again for us and for our salvation the sacramental re-presentation of the death and resurrection of Christ in the Eucharist,” said Cardinal Wuerl.
Just a day previously, Cardinal Wuerl had been 14 stories above the sanctuary where the ordination Mass was held, helping to place the last major section of the 14-million-piece mosaic in the Trinity Dome of the basilica. That section, completing the Creed with the word "Amen," was the one blessed by Pope Francis during his 2015 pastoral visit to Washington.
“This dome mosaic we hope may last for hundreds and hundreds of years, but the priesthood into which you were just ordained endures forever,” said the cardinal. “Every time you come into this basilica and see that great Amen…let us simply remind ourselves of our own Amen…a commitment to a ministry of service and a union with Christ that never ends.”
Watching those four men say their own “Amen” or “yes” to the priesthood was inspiring to Stephen Castellano, who has been studying at the Saint John Paul II Seminary for the past two years, and will soon be studying at the Theological College in Washington. As he listened to the cardinal speak about the endurance of the priesthood, Castelllano said he was reminded that though they say “Amen” at the altar on their ordination day, “it is really a daily ‘amen’ and a daily ‘yes.’”
Deacon Kevin Fields, who was a year behind Father Wakefield, Father Garcia, and Father Kilner at the Saint John Paul II Seminary, said the three men “provided great examples of loving others…and also of fraternity within the house.”
Following the ordination Mass, the congregation lined up to receive blessings from the newly ordained priests. As Father Andrew Wakefield made his way through the hallway amidst cheers and applause, he paused to hug his parents and offer a blessing.
On the same day that their sons were committing to dedicate their lives to God and His Church, the parents of Father Wakefield and Father Kilner were commemorating the day that they dedicated their lives in service of each other. Dr. Thomas and Mary Wakefield were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and Patrick and Toni Kilner were celebrating their 39th.
The ordination day itself is like a wedding, noted Kathy D’alelio, a family friend of the Kilners, but she said that on this day, the bride is the Church.
The priest who witnessed the Kilners’ wedding was named Father Robert Francis Mordino, and they named their son after him, and that son, Father Robert Francis Kilner, was ordained to the priesthood on that day, 39 years later. The Kilner family feels that this is not a coincidence, but rather Toni Kilner called it, “God’s big plan.”
Michael Kilner, Father Kilner’s brother, recalled a story from when the two attended the March for Life together as children and Cardinal McCarrick pulled them aside to ask, “Which one of you can I have for the priesthood?” Michael Kilner responded, “Not me, you can have my brother.”
Toni Kilner said the family feels “outrageously blessed” to have Father Kilner be ordained, and that other priests’ mothers have told her, “He is still a member of your family, but he belongs to everybody now.” She said she has already started to see that happen in how “he reaches out to people and they respond to that…he’s got a beautiful heart.”
In the chapel where newly ordained Father García was giving blessings, many parishioners of St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda gathered to greet him, as he had served there in recent years as a seminarian.
“What a blessing for our parish,” said Lucy Yepez. “He is very much loved by everybody.”
In the chapel across the way, Father Ubau gave blessings amidst the echoing music from members of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic movement dedicated to adult and family faith formation which Father Ubau is a part of. Father Jonathan Vanegas stood outside of the chapel looking in, and remembered how he and Father Ubau began the seminary together 13 years previously. He said they took all of their classes together and became “like brothers.”
“We started together, we prayed together, we studied together,” he said. And now, Father Ubau’s assignment will be close by to Father Vanegas’ parish, so “the story will continue,” he said.
Father Ubau’s mother, Rosa Maria Lopez, who traveled with 14 other people from El Salvador to see her son be ordained, said through a translator, “I hope that he is able to honor God with the ministry God has given him through the priesthood.”
Dr. Wakefield said he and his wife felt that their son, from the time he was in elementary and high school, would someday become a priest. He noted that his son liked to sing at the Christmas Midnight Mass and at the Easter Vigil. “You could tell he had a tremendous love for the Lord. It seemed like this was his destiny,” he said.
Victor Wakefield said his brother always wanted to help people. “Watching his journey” and seeing his brother determined “to live a life bigger than himself” and then study for the priesthood and be ordained has been awe-inspiring, he said. “The priesthood is the fulfillment of this path.”
After blessing the people who had lined up to congratulate him and receive his blessing, Father García said that his prayer before and during and now after his ordination has been to be “one with Christ. It is He who asked, He who does, and He who guides,” the new priest said.
(Mark Zimmermann contributed to this story.)
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