Archbishop’s Guidance for Our Priests

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Priesthood Ordination of

Quoc-Viet Minh Nguyen and Carter Paul Zielinski

June 30, 2018

I

Gratitude to the Family and Friends of Daniel and Michael 

Thank you to everyone present today for the ordination to the priesthood of Deacon Viet Nguyen and Deacon Carter Zielinski. The ordination of new priests is always a cause for great rejoicing for a diocese.

In a special way, we are grateful for the presence of so many members of the Nguyen and Zielinski families. We are grateful for all the family and friends of Viet and Carter who have come from points as far as Taiwan to express your affection and support as they accept Our Lord’s call to serve Him and His Church as priests. A word of special thanks to Curé of Ars, Viet’s home parish, and Nativity, Carter’s parish. We are also grateful to Holy Martyrs Parish in Kansas City, Missouri — a personal parish for the Vietnamese Catholics where Viet received much of his early formation and where his father now serves as a permanent deacon. We are especially grateful to Father Francis Hund, the staff and parishioners of Nativity for hosting the ordination liturgy.

II

Gratitude to Vocation Team and Seminary Representatives

I also want to take this occasion to thank Monsignor Michael Mullen and Father Scott Wallisch for their assistance with the formation of seminarians and, in particular, for all that they have done to help Viet and Carter with their discernment. 

We are also honored to have with us today Father Ed Pedrino representing the faculty and staff of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, where Viet received his theological education and his human, pastoral and spiritual formation. Please communicate to the Mundelein Seminary faculty and formation staff my deep gratitude.

We are also grateful to Father Randy Soto, representing the North American College in Rome, where Carter received human, spiritual and pastoral formation and Jesuit Father Joseph Carola, a professor at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome where Carter received his theological education. We are also delighted to have with us Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB, representing Conception College Seminary where Carter received his initial seminary formation and his undergraduate degree in philosophy.

We are also grateful to have with us Father Hanh Nguyen, Viet’s priest uncle, who ministers in Tapei, Taiwan. Also, a word of gratitude to Father Patrick Marshall who leads the campus ministry at the University of Chicago and helped Viet discern a call to priesthood. Viet says in his Leaven interview: “I’d never seen such a joyful priest. That’s when I began to be interested in the priesthood. I asked: Why is he so happy?  His joy was contagious.” Thanks,Father Marshall, for being a valued mentor and treasured friend for Viet.  

I am also grateful for the presence of so many of the priests of our archdiocese. Your participation in this ordination ceremony is a concrete manifestation of your desire to welcome with great joy and enthusiasm Viet and Carter to our presbyterate. A special word of thanks to Father Al Rockers, senior priest here at Nativity and former pastor, who will assist Father Hund in vesting Carter. 

I must give a special acknowledgment to the St. Lawrence Center at the University of Kansas that inspired Carter to begin considering a priestly vocation and eventually prepared him to enter seminary. Carter acknowledges the role played by the FOCUS missionaries, the Apostles of the Interior Life, and especially Fathers Steve Beseau and Mitchel Zimmerman.  

III

Family: The First Seminary

The Church owes a special debt of gratitude to Viet’s parents — Paul and Anna — and  Carter’s parents – Ray and Jennifer. Thank you for being the first teachers of the faith to Viet and Carter. Thank you introducing them to Jesus and teaching them through word, but even more by your example, to be men of prayer. Thank you for your example of faithful and unconditional love that you have modeled for them in living your vocation of Christian marriage. The Church is grateful for all that you have done to assist Viet and Carter develop the virtues that will help them serve well the people of the archdiocese. 

It was beautiful to read the quote of Viet in The Leaven saying: “Whenever someone asks me where my faith came from . . . I go back to my parents and grandparents’ generation.”Similarly, when Carter was asked by The Leaven’s roving reporter: Who was the most inspirational Christian he had met?  Carter’s reply says it all: “My parents!”  Thanks to all of Viet’s and Carter’s family and friends here today; you have each played some role in their path to the priesthood. 

IV

Refuge for Refugees

It is a blessing to have so many from the Vietnamese Catholic Community with us today. I was very moved in The Leaven article where Viet described after the fall of Saigon and the  chaotic and brutal ending of the Vietnam War his family fled Vietnam so that they could practice their Catholic faith. Viet describes how his parents and grandparents left Vietnam with nothing but their family and faith in God. 

This has given Viet a special compassion for refugees and immigrants, as evidenced on the back of his prayer card: “Lord, protect all refugees in their travels. May they find a friend in me and so make me worthy of the refuge I have found in you.”  Viet’s ordination this morning is a powerful reminder of how our country has been enriched by being generous in welcoming refugees and immigrants.

V

Before I Formed You in the Womb I Dedicated You

The Scripture passages for our liturgy are very rich in the insights they bring to the nature of the priesthood and the meaning of your ordination. I love the passage from Jeremiah, where God says to the prophet:  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”

This is one of many passages where the Bible refers to life before birth. It is a passage that also speaks about the notion of vocation. God has a plan, a dream, for each of us. He has a special mission that no one else can quite fulfill. The idea of vocation does not just apply to priests, deacons, and religious sisters and brothers. Every person has a vocation, a calling, a special mission that in some way is destined to assist with the building up of His Kingdom.

Very often, we adults ask young people the wrong question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The right question, the real question, for the Christian is not: What do I want to do with my life?  The more proper question is: “What does God want you to do with your life?”

VI

Say Not, I Am Too Young

Jeremiah laments to God that he is not the right material to be a prophet, because he is not an accomplished speaker and he is just too young. Viet and Carter, one of the things you are going to have to get used to after today is people, much older than you, calling you “Father!”

It is true that in the natural order, the one we call “Father” is by definition older than his children. Yet, I would submit the essence of fatherhood is less about age and more about giving life and providing and protecting those in your care. Good biological fathers are willing to do anything for the welfare of their children. They are willing to work long hours, more than one job, and sacrifice their own personal wants and desires for the good of their children.

Do not think of the title of Father so much as an honor, but a challenge to live a life of self-giving, sacrificial love. The challenge of your young age will solve itself in due time. Know that you can be and are called to be true spiritual fathers for your parishioners. This does not mean that you have to be wiser or smarter than your parishioners, but it does mean that you have to be willing to sacrifice virtually anything for their immediate and eternal spiritual welfare.

VII

Configured to the Crucified One

The author to the letter of the Hebrews states that Jesus “…offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears…”  Jesus, we are told, learned obedience from what he suffered.

If we are going to strive to be configured to Christ, that means we must be configured to the One Crucified. We are called to be shepherds after the heart of Jesus, to be willing to lay down our life for our flock, our people.

Priests as well as bishops can sometimes develop the mindset that if only all of our parishioners had their acts together and always made the best choices, this priesthood thing would be great. The reality is: Life in this sin-fractured world is messy.

If everyone was already perfect, there would be no need for priests. Accompanying our people through difficulties and hardship — sometimes self-imposed, at least in part, and often other times not — is precisely what our vocation is about. You are not being ordained a priest for paradise, but to immerse yourself in bringing the love and mercy of Jesus into some painful situations and very complicated lives.

It is when we do not shy away from the suffering of our people, but we strive to help them carry whatever burdens they may have. This is when we are most a priest. Last summer, as part of our seminarian pilgrimage, we visited the birthplace of Father Emil Kapaun, the Wichita priest whose cause for beatification is under consideration. Though he had been an exemplary priest in so many ways already, it was in the prisoner of war camp in Korea where Father Emil Kapaun’s priestly ministry would prove to be most powerful and fruitful.

Strive not to flee suffering, but to enter into it. It is there that you will encounter Jesus. It is there you will be most truly a priest. Allow yourself to be configured to the Crucified One in whose priesthood you will soon share.

VIII

All About Friendship

Finally, the priesthood is all about friendship. In our Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples that they are not slaves, but friends. Priests are not called slavishly to perform difficult tasks for which we do not understand the reason.

Jesus tells His disciples that He has shown them the key to complete happiness. It is not acquiring material things and indulging ourselves with every creature comfort. It is not about satiating our desires with more and more experiences of pleasure. This actually leads to enslavement. Just ask anyone who has experienced some form of addiction.

Jesus tells us the secret for a joyful life is what St. John Paul called the Law of the Gift. His command is to love one another as He had loved them. How did He love them?  He loved them unconditionally, even to the point of laying down His own life for them. 

Viet and Carter, people are craving to experience authentic love. They are thirsting to know Jesus, though they may not be conscious of the One who is the fulfillment of all the true desires of their hearts. You must first continue to cultivate your own friendship with Jesus. Your people to not need to know about Jesus. They need to meet Jesus and they look to you to introduce them, to lead them, to the One who is the object of their longing! 

IX

Mission Impossible

Finally, as a priest you will experience your own poverty. You will recognize what those who call you Father need and recognize how inadequate you are for the task. As has been said often, Jesus does not call the qualified, He qualifies those whom He calls.

Jesus prefers to use the weak, the low-born, those the world counts for nothing to be His human instruments of grace. Carter, on your prayer card you quote a line from the writings of St. Paul. Paul writes: “He [Jesus] said to me: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Take comfort in that truth. Jesus likes to use plain earthen vessels to do His work. You do not have to be more intelligent or more talented than others to be a great priest. What you do need is to know Jesus through a life of prayer and to be able to lead your people to Him. You do this by loving them and then leading them to the source of your power to love.

In the end, realize it is not your priesthood but, rather, you are participating in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Our Lord, who has called you to follow Him as priests, will not fail to provide you what you need. Rest in the confidence that Our Lord is with you through every trial and challenge!

Venerable Emil Kapaun, Pray for us.

Blessed Stanley Rother, Pray for us.

St. John Mary Vianney, Pray for us.  

Holy Roman Martyrs, Pray for us.