First Weeks of Priesthood – Fr. Tim Hedrick
Ordination and the First Few Weeks of Priesthood
Six years ago when I entered the seminary, I felt God inviting me to consider a call to the priesthood. While I did not know if I was definitely being called to priesthood or if I would be ordained, I knew I had to go; I had to give God the chance. As I entered the seminary, my prayer was that during my time in formation God would either open wide the door or slam it shut.
After many years of formation and discernment, the door remained open and God kept calling me forward. After graduating from seminary in early May, however, I had a month off before my ordination. Because I had been looking forward to ordination for years, I tried not to think of the actual ceremony too much or I might not sleep for an entire month out of excitement. Instead, I quietly made preparations for my first Mass and began packing my belongings at the seminary in anticipation of moving to my first assignment.
The week of the ordination, however, I allowed myself to prepare for the actual rite of ordination. I spent the week praying with the rite of ordination, pondering all of the symbols, the rituals, gestures, prayers, and what was going to happen. Years of anticipation quickly turned into overwhelming excitement. After the rehearsal at the Cathedral on the Thursday before the ordination and as my family and friends began arriving in New Orleans, it hit me: the ordination was finally here!
On June 7, 2014, I entered St. Louis Cathedral with three other men from New Orleans. As I walked into the cathedral and saw the standing room only crowd, my heart began racing. People from throughout my life were there to love and support me as I committed my life to God and the Church. Seeing so many people there was very awe-inspiring, and I almost started crying before we even walked down the aisle. When the signal was given, the Cathedral Choir began singing and the ordination began.
There are many powerful moments from the ordination, but a few that stand out in particular. The first was the Litany of Saints. After being called to orders and hearing the Archbishop’s homily on priesthood, the four ordinands walked to the center of the sanctuary and laid prostrate as the entire congregation of over 1,000 people sang, invoking the power intercession of the saints in heaven. As I laid on the ground, a sign of total surrender and dying to myself, I offered my entire life to the God and the people of God. It was a very moving part of the ritual. A second powerful moment was the Laying on of Hands. After the Litany of Saints, each of us approached the Archbishop. As a successor of the Apostles, the Archbishop laid his hands on our heads and silently called down the Holy Spirit on each of us. This 2,000-year-old tradition has always symbolized the calling forth for ministry. After the Archbishop laid hands on each of our heads, all of the priests who were present also made the same gesture as a sign of us joining the presbyterate.
Mass of Thanksgiving
After the ordination and the reception that followed, the weekend was far from being over. The day after his ordination, a priest traditionally returns to his home parish and offers a Mass of Thanksgiving. When I thought the weekend couldn’t get better, I was wrong. Celebrating Mass with family, friends, and a number of brother priests was moving. I had so much to give thanks to God for, but most importantly for the gift of priesthood!
First Assignment: St. Catherine of Siena
For my first assignment, I was appointed to St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, LA. It is a large suburban parish with a large elementary school not far from where I grew up. Since we were both new to the parish, my pastor and I decided to host small gatherings of about 15-25 people in parishioner’s homes. Over the first few months, we hosted “coffees” as a way getting to know the people we would be serving and learn more about our new parish. It was a great experience to be welcomed into the homes of so many parishioners and to get to know them and hear about their experience of faith and family at St. Catherine.
While there are many things that I enjoy about being a priest, but a few stand out in particular. The first is hearing confession. There is nothing more powerful and humbling than hearing someone’s confession, being an instrument of God’s mercy, healing, forgiveness, and reconciling someone to God and the Church. The second is celebrating the Eucharist. As I say the words of consecration, I am in awe that God has chosen to use me, broken as I am, to be an instrument of making himself present, everyday, in the lives of the faithful in New Orleans.
As I look back on my years of seminary formation, all of the hard work and preparation was worth it all. I absolutely love being a priest and I know that this is the reason that God created: to be a priest of Jesus Christ who can bring people to God and God to people.
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