The Archdiocese of Louisville welcomed five new priests during the rite of ordination May 26 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. We haven’t had so many priests ordained at once since the year 2000, when six men were ordained for the Archdiocese of Louisville. And that ordination was the largest since 1981.
It’s safe to say it’s rare for a man these days to choose the priesthood. It can be a lonely life in a time when there are fewer and fewer priests. Many here in the Archdiocese of Louisville live alone. And most of them carry a heavy workload.
In other parts of the world, it can be dangerous to be a priest. In Mexico five priests have been murdered so far this year and 24 priests have been killed since December 2012, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center.
Two priests and 17 parishioners were killed during an April 24 Mass in Nigeria. In Nicaragua, a bishop speaking out against corruption recently received death threats. The Vatican has given permission to open the sainthood cause of an Iraqi priest and three deacons murdered in Mosul in 2007.
Thankfully, the priesthood in the United States faces far less violence. The life of a priest though, like any life, comes with it’s own challenges. From the workload to celibacy and all the facets in between, a priest chooses to put the needs of others before his own. It’s a wonder that anyone says yes to such a calling. Only something as powerful as love could compel it.
Love -— and its expression in service — were central to the discernment of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s five new priests, though they trod different paths to the priesthood.
Fathers Kien Nguyen and Minh Vu from Vietnam have been in serious discernment from childhood and traveled thousands of miles from home to reach their destination.
Father David Farrell holds a degree in wildlife biology. Father Robert Barnell worked with refugees and other people of few means. And Father Brandon DeToma served in the U.S. Army.
During interviews with Record reporter Jessica Able, each of the men described the love they received from people around them as they discerned their vocation.
They were nurtured by members of their family, seminarians and priests they encountered, refugees and even children living on the streets of Saigon and a fraternity brother.
Father DeToma describes his vocation becoming clear to him as he sat in a military chapel pew one day and had a revelation of God’s love.
“It kind of dawned on me. I felt loved by God. … It was a huge moment for me, a source of strength. Being a son of God, feeling loved, it opened my eyes to the ability to answer God’s call,” he explained.
Each of the men responded to the love they received by choosing to share it with others as priests, despite lingering doubt and fear.
Father Vu, who knew that he wanted to help people but struggled inwardly over how he would help, found clarity when he encountered children living on the streets.
“We started talking and they asked me questions, such moral and profound questions that I didn’t have answers for,” he told Able. Gradually, he realized, “I can be an instrument of Christ to them. My ear can be an instrument. Sitting down with them, I can be the ear, the heart of Christ.”
Father David Farrell sees his role in a similar light. Service, he said, is central to the role of the priest.
“It’s this ministry of service which is able to give meaning to other people’s lives, to help guide people to know who they are,” he said.
Let’s welcome these men into our parishes, our homes and our lives, share our love with them and give thanks for their service.