Jesus says to his disciples, ask the Lord to send workers into his harvest (MT 9:38).
Earlier today I attended the Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, Bishop of Norwich and Chancellor of Holy Apostles Seminary (Cromwell, CT), where he also instituted 27 seminarians in the ministries of Lector and Acolyte. These men of various ages, life experience and affiliation, are preparing for service as priests.
This was the first time these rites were performed in the new seminary chapel.
These rites are minor, but essential in the life Church as she prepares men for service as priests. All of these men have been reading the sacred Scripture at Mass and serving and bringing Holy Communion to the people. But now, they are more official in their service for without these rites they can’t be advanced to the Order of Deacon.
The Church commissions those instituted as lector with these words:
Take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people.
And, for those instituted as acolytes:
Take these vessels with bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.
Bishop Cote reminded all the seminarians that as ministers of God and of the Church they are to read the signs of the times, to think with the Church, to share the Good News of the Lord and to signs of mercy for the faithful. He emphasized that priests and deacons and other ministers are to be gentle shepherds of the Gospel: nothing harsh, nothing repelling when it comes to teaching the faith and exercising the pastoral office.
My friend and neighbor, Ken Dagliere, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Hartford was one of the men given ministry of acolyte. His new ministry allows him to officially serve at the altar, expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament and cleanse the liturgical vessels if a deacon or priest is not available.
Driving to and from the seminary there was a tangible experience holiness and the feeling of rightness of the event just lived: not only did I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit but also the graces of friendship and the beauty of the horizon revealed the face of God. New England color is particularly revealing of God’s interest in our lives. You know when something is “just right,” “just what it’s supposed to be.” Saint Catherine of Siena tells us that we know that grace is at work in our lives when we are who we are meant to be; in another vein: we are to strive to be what God has made us to be. It is an awareness of the Divine Plan in our lives. And so today, 27 seminarians, visiting priests and laity with the bishop asked the Holy Spirit once again make hallow the lives those called to priesthood. But lest we forget that all people have vocations: some it’s priesthood, for others it’s teaching, and others the lay life in its multiplicity of works; all are called to seek the face of Christ and to live the Gospel and the sacraments.
May Mary, Queen of the Apostles and seminarians, pray for Ken and the other seminarians as they continue their formation for priesthood.