Sunday, June 9, 2019
I am sometimes amazed at how many of you keep track of my whereabouts! And quite frankly I’m actually flattered that you care enough about me to inquire why you didn’t see my name on the Mass schedule for this Sunday, Pentecost of all days!?! It’s true….I’m not here at Old St. Pat’s this weekend because I am traveling up to DePere, Wisconsin to attend the First Mass of our young brother, Jordan Neeck OPraem who is being ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 8th. I can’t attend the ordination because I’m honored to be presiding at the wedding of Buddy Dudczak and Megan Simon here at OSP (the other sacrament of vocation), so I decided to go up for Jordan’s First Mass instead. As much as I love being with you, the people of Old St. Pat’s, every Sunday I am really looking forward to this moment for Jordan and for the Church.
For those who didn’t get a chance to meet him, Jordan was a student at the great Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park and besides ministering with Courtney Malaway in our Foundations Youth Ministry here at OSP, Jordan also served his Deacon year with us. He’s a graduate of St. Norbert College, a native Wisconsinite, unfortunately a big Packer’s Fan, and a member of the Norbertine Order. And today, he will be a newly ordained priest for the Catholic Church…and I couldn’t be happier. Jordan is an absolutely delightful young man and he “gets it” when it comes to what priestly ministry is all about. He’s a people-person, he’s caring, he’s bright, he’s open to learning, he’s not clerical, he knows how to be present, and he likes to have fun and knows how to laugh. The Norbertine’s hit the jack pot when Jordan discerned his way into their religious community.
For the first time in a long time I am feeling particularly moved by Jordan’s ordination. Even though I see my “aging self” in the mirror every day and the calendar indicates I hit 26 years since my own ordination back in 1993, I have to admit I have always felt like a “young priest”….until now. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bemoaning my age. I still feel young and I’m grateful for the energy God still gives to me to be your priest, but I feel like I’m hitting a significant moment with Jordan’s ordination. It’s more than just being ‘happy’ for him. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to be encouraging him and offering him whatever bit of wisdom or guidance I might possibly have.
I want to hand on to Jordan some of the wisdom that was handed on to me (which I’ve quoted and shared many times in homilies throughout the years). I need to say to Jordan Neeck what Fr. John Canary said to me when he saw my troubled, confused, and terrified face the day after I was ordained: “you’re okay; you’re alright; the problem is you just don’t know yet!” I want him to hear what a wise priest said to me in such simple terms, it was his motto for ministry: “Just be Present to them!” I wish Jordan could have benefitted from the guidance and passion of the late Roger Hughes who was our volunteer executive director for 24 years: “Remember, it’s all about The Love Story of Jesus” and “Don’t think you’re the smartest guy in the room, because you’re not!”
I am feeling an abundant amount of responsibility today: to hand on and to share the gifts and wisdom that some of my mentors joyfully handed on to me. In case you’re interested, these are the gifts I am giving to the new Father Jordan today at St. Norbert’s Abbey: first, a ceramic plate and chalice that was lovingly created by our own talented Bea Cunningham with the Old St. Pat’s Crossroads Cross painted onto it, along with a quote from Pope Francis that he told newly ordained priests back on May 12 in Rome: “Let what you teach be nourishment for the People of God. You will be a man of prayer, a man of sacrifice so that by word and example you may build the House of God.” The second gift is a four volume series by our friend and author Jack Shea, “The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospel for Teachers and Preachers.” I think Jack is one of the best scholars and spiritual writers of our time. I want Jordan to be a great homilist. The last gift is an oil stock. I think the most important thing we do in parish ministry is bring the anointing and comfort to the sick.
It’s Pentecost and despite all the red colors and cosmic imagery of Winds and Flames of the Spirit, that early Church was terrified and questioning: what did we get ourselves into? The Risen Christ promised to be with them and gave them the gift of the Spirit to guide them and be their strength. We live in troubling times right now. The Church is damaged and in dire need of renewal and healing. Let’s pray together today, from DePere to Chicago, that this Holy and Energetic Spirit will guide not only Jordan, but all of us into a Holier, Healthier and Happier time.
Father Thomas J. Hurley