Newly ordained priests told they will be ‘signs of contradiction’ to the world

Bishop Carl A. Kemme ordained four men to the priesthood Saturday, May 25. From left are Jesus Bañuelos, Miles Swigart, Caleb Kuestersteffen, and Matthew Cooke. (Advance photo)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme told four deacons Saturday, May 25, that they would be signs of contradiction after their ordination as priests.

They will be “standing in many ways in opposition to the values and priorities of our modern times, like lambs among wolves,” the bishop said. “Jesus knew that what awaited the disciples being sent out to every town and place was a mixture of welcome and rejection and that for most if not all, they would suffer greatly for the Gospel.”

The four seminarians listen to Bishop Kemme deliver his homily.

Bishop Kemme ordained Deacons Jesus Bañuelos, Matthew Cooke, Caleb Kuestersteffen, and Miles Swigart to the priesthood in front of an overflowing congregation in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

After expressing his joy at being able to ordain the men, the bishop thanked their parents for forming them in the domestic church, the home.

“Without you and your daily love, support, and care for them, this day would not have happened. From the moment you learned of their existence in the womb and then saw their little faces when they were born, you have cared for them in an excellent way. Though they are being ordained as priests, they will always be your sons and members of your family.”

Bishop embraces Fr. Matthew Cooke after he received his priestly vestments.

After requesting and receiving applause for the parents, Bishop Kemme, standing at his cathedra, directed his comments to the four ordinandi sitting across the sanctuary from him.

“Dearest sons, as I have been preparing for this ordination Mass, I have found myself remembering and reflecting on our days together last year as we went together on pilgrimage. I recall with great fondness and joy our time together in Lourdes. There I prayed the rosary for each of you in the evening candlelight procession that Mary would wrap you in her mantle of motherly love and protection and that as priests consecrated to her son, you would make her proud to be her priest sons.”

The four men stand before the bishop before the Litany of the Saints at their ordination.

Bishop Kemme talked about other sites at which he prayed for the four seminarians. He prayed they would have “a true priest’s heart, on fire with passion and zeal for souls” in the chapel of the apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary at Paray-le-Monial, in eastern France.

At Annecy, in southeastern France, the bishop prayed for the intercession of St. Francis de Sales, who is buried there that he would inspire the men “to be good spiritual guides for the people you would come to know and serve in your varied ministries.”

And in Ars, the village of 1,500 residents in eastern France where St. John Vianney served his entire priesthood, Bishop Kemme “prayed that you would be given even a small portion of the graces he received to be the world’s patron of priests, that like him, you too would be zealous priests, that you would be known as a remarkable and sought after confessor, and that you would be in your own unique way, a curé, a caretaker of souls.”

The four newly ordained priests stand behind Bishop Kemme during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

With those memories in mind, the bishop recalled one of the Mass readings, St. Paul’s admonition to the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood.”

The bishop said St. Peter offered similar advice: “Above all, let your love for one another be intense. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Lambs among wolves

He added that Jesus told his disciples, “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

Bishop Kemme said St. John Vianney, like Fr. Emil Kapaun and Blessed Stanley Rother, and many others lived those words.

“And so must we, who though in spite of our unworthiness and many weaknesses are called to live in this world as priests,” he said. “We must keep watch over ourselves and over the whole flock. We cannot give what we ourselves do not have and so we must be ever diligent in our prayer life, our fasting, and in our charity so that we have something worthwhile and useful to offer the flock. Moreover, never forget the flock is not yours or mine but Christ’s.”

Intense love for Christ, his people

Their love for Christ and his people must be intense, the bishop said to the ordinandi. “It is this love that determines everything, that drives us, that moves us and challenges us to do sometimes hard but important things, because ours, like Vianney and the others, is the care of souls. Nothing else must matter to us or come before the care of souls.”

Bishop Kemme closed his homily by warning the four men that St. John Vianney said their ordination day, or the next day, would be the last day of their lives that everyone would like them.

“It’s true, but this should not topple us or even concern us ultimately, for after today, your life in every respect is now ordered to the will of God, and him alone must you please and serve,” the bishop said.

“Liked or disliked, welcomed or unwelcomed, from now on your life is to proclaim this one all-encompassing proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’”

By doing so, he said, they will, God-willing, join the ranks of the church’s priest saints like St. John Vianney, Fr. Kapaun, and Blessed Rother, “and take our place as priests at the Heavenly Liturgy.”