One of our newly ordained Fr. Illuru Somuas, O. de M., from Andhra Pradesh, India composed this article for the US Vicariate:
Priestly ordination -2013
The First ordination to priesthood was done in St.Jude’s church, chinnathura (Trivandrum diocese) on April 8th, 2013. The other was in Our Lady of Fathima church, Badvel (Kadapa diocese, Andhra Pradesh). Both ceremonies have gone well. Soosa Packiam, the arch-bishop of Trivandrum was present and delivered a very good inspiring homily on our ordination day. Some of our fathers and brothers were there with blissful presence and angelic smiles. Good number of faithful and the well wishers whom we know came there and cherished us. Big thanks to all of them .
The Second ordination was on 13th April, 2013. Three of the brothers were ordained by Rt. Rev.Dr. M.D.Prakasham, the bishop of Nellore diocese. He delivered a very good inspiring homily which was really helpful for our priestly ministry. The first Masses of the three brothers had gone smoothly. Thanks to all the parish priests and assistants and sisters and well wishers who have really come to our places of Ordination and prayed for us to the Almighty and cherished us. All thanks to God for Redemption and our Vocation and to our parents for our birth, upbringing and encouragement.
Fr Richard Rasch, O. de M. has been blessed to serve the Order in a variety of capacities from Prision Ministry to Pastor to Vicar Provincial. Here Fr Richard answers some question about his vocation story:
So, Father Richard, could you tell us a little about your family?
I grew up in a Middle class family. My father was Lutheran. My mother was Catholic. Many times we would go to Lutheran Services at 8am & Catholic Mass at 12noon. Both of my parents were very faithful and devoted to church. They gave good example to us in living Christianity in their daily lives.
When did you first consider Religious life and/or Priesthood?
I think the first time I thought about it was in High school. I always had the desire to go to Catholic High School, but my Father could not see spending the extra money. So I went to a public school all my life. After that I went to community college for two years. After saving some money, I was able to enroll in a Catholic College, Niagara University, to complete my bachelor’s degree.
How did you first discover the Mercedarian Friars?
I first knew Mercedarian from Niagara University. There were several friars attending the University. At that time the Order had a house near Niagara Falls on College Avenue. Different times I would stop by to pray with the community while I was in college.
What are some of positions that you have held in community and how have you served the Order over the years?
I have been in a variety of capacities from taking care of youth to prison chaplaincy, to hospital chaplaincy, to being pastor, to superior, and, also, Vicar Provincial. I was Vicar Provincial of the United States Vicariate for 4 terms (12 years).
What have been your greatest joys in Religious Life?
One of my greatest joys is preparing people to die. One of the hospitals that I was chaplain at was mostly cancer patients. I got to know the patients and their families’ real well. I ended up doing many of the funerals of these patients as well. Just being there with them and going through those difficult times was powerful. There are people that still keep in touch with me even now years later. I had their mothers or fathers funerals and they still remember me. They send Christmas cards each year. It amazes me. This is one of my greatest joys.
Another great joy is taking care of community service workers (those assigned by the courts, in lieu of, or in addition to, other criminal justice sanctions). My background is in a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice. I have worked for several years as a Prison Chaplain. To me the prison and hospital suited me better personality wise and ministry wise.
Do you have any suggestions for those young men who are starting to begin to think about being religious and/or a priest?
The Holy Spirit will direct you where He wants you. Be patient with yourself and be patient with the community. The grace of God is there with you to guide you.
Fr. James Chia, O. de M. has been assigned to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, FL. There he will be the Assistant Pastor. The Newly Ordained will be kept busy administering the Sacraments, visiting the sick, preparing couples for marriage, teaching catechism, and a variety of other pastoral tasks. Here are some pictures from Fr James’ Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Petersburg:
On November 24th, Deacon James Chia was Ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The liturgy took place at St. Ignatius Parish in Yardley, Pa. Present were friars, family and friends of Fr James. Here are some pictures from the weekend:
Just like any family, the Mercedarians have those elders who paved the way for our redemptive work in the United States. One of these friars is Fr. Marino who came to the United States from Italy to serve the Italian immigrants in Cleveland, OH.
There in Cleveland as Pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel he faced many challenges including the changing neighborhood around the parish. With all the challenges he faced the soft-spoken optimist persisted, and often asked, “Why not?”
Frascati’s undertaker and longtime parishioner, Jim Craciun, called him a renaissance priest who inspired a renaissance in Cleveland.
Plain Dealer columnist James Neff once called the white-robed priest “the most popular and powerful man in the neighborhood.”
Ray Pianka, Cleveland Housing Court judge, said, “He would never give up at City Hall or in the halls of Congress.”
The priest prophesied a neighborhood of condos and restaurants instead of noisy trains and idle factories. One of many skeptics called it “the Coal Coast.” But the prophesy came true.
Frascati was a founder, president and eventually president emeritus of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Pianka, the group’s long-time director, later the neighborhood’s councilman, said the priest helped the 1973 group become a national model, with breakthroughs such as the first federal urban development grant outside of a downtown.
Overall, the group has raised about $100 million and spurred more than $1 billion in private investments.
Frascati formed other organizations at Mount Carmel, which added a few million dollars’ worth of more projects to the near West Side neighborhood. He led the construction of a seniors’ high rise called Villa Mercede for his order, Our Lady of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. He created condos and houses through a group called Nolasco Housing Organization for the order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco.
Frascati was born in Castel Viscardo and entered the order at 14. In 1948, he began to study theology at a Franciscan seminary in Teutopolis, Ill. He was ordained as a priest in 1951.
He briefly worked at Our Lady of Mercy Monastery in Middleburg Heights, St. Rocco Church in Cleveland and other local sites. Then came 13 years as Mount Carmel’s associate pastor and 25 as pastor.
Frascati said a weekly Mass in Italian. He helped dry up controversial bars. He blessed new homes and an ice cream shop called Blessings. He served as dean of Holy Name Societies for the West Side.
He started many activities for youngsters. He founded and led a Boy Scout troop. He took children to the Alleghenies, Great Smoky and more. He gave Bibles to Craciun and other young adults to smuggle into Communist countries. Frascati left Cleveland in 1995 to become his order’s vicar provincial in LeRoy, N.Y. Nine years later, he chose to return as Mount Carmel’s pastor emeritus.
His many awards included a Star of Italy from his homeland’s consulate and a Medal of Honor from Pope John Paul II.
The Mercedarian friar died November 1, 2009 from heart disease at Regina Health Center, Richfield, his home the past few years. He was 84. His funeral Mass was led by Bishop Emeritus Anthony Pilla several day later.
We remember Fr. Marino in our prayers and thank God for all he was able to accomplish through him.
Nicholas McLeod is preparing to enter the postulancy program in Philadelphia this Fall. Here is his story:
When I was in grade two my teacher asked us to interview the person who you wanted to be when you grew up. I interviewed my parish priest. That I think was the first sign of my call to the priesthood. I come from a family of six and I grew up near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I moved to Toronto, Ontario when I entered grade 9 and then moved up to Ottawa to attend University where I graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce in Accounting and Management of People and Organizations.
I had rejected my Catholic faith in High School, but when I saw a video of what abortion did to pre-born children I knew that I was pro-life. So in University I co-founded the pro-life club on campus and who were my fellow members, but Catholics. So in second year one of them asked me to go on a retreat with them. I went, and it was there that for the first time I experienced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I could not help but fall to my knees and I made my first real confession. Once I had opened my heart back to God, his call once again reached my ears. He wanted me to work for him.
I searched for orders but I was not satisfied with any of them, until I found the Mercedarians. What first drew me to them was their progressive view of liturgy. I loved that they celebrated the extraordinary form of the mass and offered the ordinary form so reverently. When I heard the story of St. Peter Nolasco and the Saints of the order, I knew that this is where I belonged.
St. Raymond Nonnatus in particular caught my attention. As a full time pro-life activist in Canada with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform I feel that God is really calling for me to minister to the pre-born child, who is dehumanized, killed and experimented on both in United States and Canada. St. Raymond–the patron saint of the pre-born–demonstrated the courage and self-sacrifice that every pro-lifer must have in order to save children from being decapitated, dismembered, and disembowled through abortion. He continued to speak the Gospel of Christ, even when his lips were padlocked shut. In the same way we have to speak the Gospel of life, even when we are silenced and persecuted for it.
If I could sum up the Mercedarian mission in one word it would be re-evangelization. St. Peter did not seek to ransom anyone, he sought out specifically Christians who were losing their faith because of their captivity. I am excited to participate in that mission to give my life for the freedom of those enslaved by ignorance, despair and other captivities which are causing them to lose their faith. St. Raymond, Ora pro nobis.
iPhones. Instant messages. YouTube uploads. It seems that there is no end to the technological marvels constantly being developed. And yet, God calls every man to holiness, through his mind and heart in a way that is far beyond the grasp of any man-made technology. The priest, today as in ages past, brings the God of the universe to man in order to redeem him from sin and death.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches,
Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. (No. 2293)
The Mercedarian priest is aware of this awesome responsibility. He starts with the building blocks of what it requires. The Constitutions of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy state,
Because of the special participation in the priesthood of Christ that the presbyterate confers for the building up of the Mystical Body, the religious who are about to be ordained priests must possess a great love for Christ, whom they are to represent, and an ardent desire to serve and evangelize the people to whom they are sent.
The Mercedarian man, following the charism molded by the Order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco, is trained and prepared to redeem others from various forms of captivity.
Is God calling you to become a Mercedarian friar, either as a priest or a brother?
All Christians, in all walks of life, are called to holiness. But priests are called in a special way to this life. Pope John Paul II, quoting the Second Vatican Council, has said that all of the baptized are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. He added that this applies,
in a special way to priests. They are called not only because they have been baptized, but also and specifically because they are priests, that is, under a new title and in new and different ways deriving from the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Thoughts like these course through the minds of our friars as they approach the altar to receive the laying on of hands of the bishop in the Rite of Ordination. Indeed, the calling to the priesthood is sublime – not just another feather to be tucked into one’s cap in the journey of life.
Special Identification with Christ
As stated in our Constitutions, the Mercedarian priest has a special identification with Christ (N. 178). Our priests redeem those held in chains by modern forms of captivity. The Constitutions state that in their priestly training,
Theoretical formation must be united with pastoral practice so that, by knowing men well and loving Christ, they may be able to nourish the flock of the Lord with preference for those who faith is in danger and the most needy.
Is God calling you to become a Mercedarian friar, either as a priest or a brother?
On September 15, 1987, Blessed John Paul II reflected on his call to the Sacred Priesthood here’s what he had to say:
I am often asked, especially by young people, why I became a priest. May be some of you would like to ask the same question. Let me try briefly to reply.
I must begin by saying that it is impossible to explain entirely, for it remains a mystery, even to myself. How does one explain the ways of God? Yet, I know that at a certain point in my life, I became convinced that Christ was saying to me what he had said to thousands before me, “Come follow me!” There was a clear sense that what I heard in my heart was no human voice, nor was it just an idea of my own. Christ was calling me to serve him as a priest.
And you can probably tell, I am deeply grateful to God for my vocation to the priesthood. Nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day and to serve God’s people in the Church. That has been true ever since the day of my ordination as a priest. Nothing has ever changed it, not even becoming pope.
Pope John Paul II, Los Angeles, September 15, 1987
As a child I loved to put puzzles together, and as I grew older, I began to challenge myself with more challenging puzzles—500 pieces, 1000 pieces, etc. Yet, I could not seem to put the puzzle pieces of my life together. I seemed to struggle with my own identity. It seemed I was a “jack of all trades” and a “master of none”.
Although I attended public schools my entire life, I received excellent catechesis through my family and parish. The other kids in CCD would say, “Matthew is going to be a priest.” No way! Forget it! Not a chance! My parish priest often suggested that I consider it. Yeah, right! “Thanks, but no thanks Father.” When my mother would bring up the idea of becoming a priest, I would get furious. So, my life went on.
During college, I became lackadaisical in the practice of my Catholicism—going to Mass when it was convenient [or I when with my parents]. I graduated from Marquette University in 1991 with a B.A. in Broadcast and Electronic Communication, and landed an entry-level position in the production department of a cable company and did some freelance video production. Although I enjoyed my career, something was missing from my life. I knew that I was lacking in faith, and said a simple prayer each night: “Lord, I have no faith, help me.” I began to help teaching the confirmation class at my parish. Something inside told me I had to be willing to serve if I were to receive the gift of God’s grace.
Almost immediately after, our whole family went through a transformation. My dad went to a parish mission that profoundly changed him. After speaking with him one weekend, I began to examine my own life. I knew intellectually that the Catholic Church possessed the fullness of faith, but I did not let that Truth penetrate my heart. My initial reaction was fear of hell—I was well on that path! I returned to the sacrament of penance—it had been about 6 years—and started attending daily Mass. The fear quickly began to turn into love. My parish had perpetual adoration and I would stop in to visit Jesus whenever I had a spare moment.
Deep inside, I began to wonder if God had been calling me to the priesthood. Had I been too stubborn to listen to him all these years? Was I merely concerned with I wanted to do in life? My life was filled with puzzle pieces that did not seem to match. Was I just not putting them together properly? After months of trying to discern whether God was calling me, I sat in the Church reading the scriptures, looking for an answer. At the height of my frustration, in failing to recognize the answer, I decided that it was time for drastic measures—“Bible Roulette”. I said to Jesus, “If I am supposed to be a priest, you have to let me know! I can’t figure this out! I want to know—today! Guide me through your Holy Spirit.” I closed my Bible. I closed my eyes. I opened the Bible at random and put my finger on the page. I opened my eyes. Imagine my shock when just above the tip of my finger was Matthew 9:9: As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
He calls himself the least likely of men to become a priest. Rev. Justin A. Freeman, O. de M., was ordained for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on Nov. 13, 2010. Here is his account of how he found his way to the priesthood.
Q. How did you become a priest?
God’s ways are loving, but often inexplicable. I am probably one of the least likely of men to become a Catholic priest.
I was born in a small Virginian town—Warrenton—in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. My family members were of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist group that was founded to “restore” the primitive Church. My family lived on a small farm in Catlett, a village of a couple hundred people. We lived on a gravel road. Our closet neighbor (my grandmother!) lived a half mile away. I occupied my time by fishing, reading, and playing with my sister and our pets, which were dogs, cats, and even a couple of ducks.
When I was in the ninth grade, my family moved to northern Virginia. The D.C. suburbs were quite a culture shock to a boy from Catlett. It was there that I discovered the Catholic faith through a friend.
Q. What was your family like?
I am the oldest of two brothers and one sister. My sister Jennifer, only twenty months younger than me, is a social worker in Washington State. My brother Clayton is 26 and is in diving school. Samuel, the youngest, just turned 18. He is a senior in high school. My dad is a retired firefighter. He now works as a fire inspector in Rockville, Maryland. My mother is a nurse.
Q. At what age did you become a Catholic?
I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at age 17 at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, VA. Like many “converts,” I felt at home in the Church.
After graduating from George Mason High School in Falls Church, I attended a small liberal arts college in south central Virginia. I majored in political science. In college, I worked for the Social Security Administration as a “student-clerk.” Living so close to D.C. gave me the opportunity to intern for Preston Gates, a major lobbying firm specializing in energy issues and insular affairs and for a major political party.
Q. What made you think about becoming a priest?
I started thinking of the priesthood even before I was formally received into the Church. The Rev. Daniel Mode, the priest who received me into the Church, even hinted once that I might one day become a priest.
Q. How did your family react to your becoming a Catholic, and wanting to become a priest?
Initially they were not very supportive. But now they are proud.
Q. What attracted you to the priesthood?
The example of many good and dedicated priests that I witnessed early on in my journey to the Faith. They were men who were completely dedicated to the Truth and to helping others.
I joined the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in 2003 at the age of 24. I professed vows in 2005 and was ordained a priest on Nov. 13, 2010. It has been a long, and at times difficult, journey to the altar. May He give me the grace to be a good and faithful Mercedarian priest.