Last week, we reflected on the important and inseparable connection between the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist. Today, I would like to invite us to see how that connection extends in a special way to the priests of the Church. On the night of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist as a sign of His enduing love for His people, He also instituted the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It was His intention to make the gift of the Eucharist dependent on the ministry of His Apostles and their successors, the bishops, and those who share in their sacramental ministry, the priests. Priests are therefore united to the Heart of Jesus in a special way, as described simply but beautifully by St. John Vianney, the Patron of Priests: “The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.”
Last year, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart fell on June 19. Providentially, that was the day to which we transferred our priesthood ordination for the year due to pandemic restrictions in place. It was so fitting to celebrate this gift of priestly ordinations on that day on which the Church remembers the great love Christ has for us. In his ordination homily, Bishop Paprocki made the following point about the essence of the priesthood, pointing to the example of one of the greatest priests of our diocese, Venerable Father Augustine Tolton:
If you look to the heroic virtue of Father Tolton, this holy priest of Jesus Christ will teach you how, again and again, no matter the joys and sufferings you will experience through your ministry, to allow your hearts to be pierced out of love for God and neighbor; he will teach you how to lead others into the Sacred Heart so that they might know how much God loves them. This, after all, is the principal mission of the Diaconate and of the Priesthood.
Two of the men ordained to the priesthood on that day were our very own Father Peter Chineke and Father Dominic Vahling. It has been a real joy to witness their first year of priestly ministry. In their own way, each of them has done as the Bishop has encouraged them, to lead people to know how much God loves them. Also ordained to the diaconate on that day was Deacon Chris Trummer, who was just ordained to the priesthood this past Saturday (June 12). We pray that his ministry will follow this same direction, that those who will encounter his ministry will grow in their understanding of God’s love for them.
In conclusion, I invite all of us to join in prayer for all of those who are in Holy Orders in our parish and in our diocese. There are a lot of different things that we do in service to our parishes and our diocese, but we must never forget that everything should be directed toward leading all of you to that deeper encounter with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose love for us has the power to transform our lives here, and prepare us to be with Him forever in Heaven.