The warm afterglow of yesterday’s ordination (see photos here) at St. Jude Cathedral was still with me upon waking this morning (Sunday). After the ordination I had a confirmation at 530pm at Sacred Heart, Tampa, for forty young women and men and today I have the Commencement Ceremony for St. Petersburg Catholic High School and tonight confirmation at St. Paul parish in Tampa for in excess of two hundred confirmandi. In sixteen years since becoming bishop, I have never attended a First Mass of a newly ordained. There is a very good reason for it. The first Mass at which he is the principal celebrant is a major moment in the life of every priest, something they dream of. Invite the bishop and the spotlight is at a minimum shared or sometimes “copped” as I can out-dress him any day! So despite some invitations from time to time, I make it a practice to stay away – it is the new priest’s day and his and Christ’s alone. As I pointed out in yesterday’s blog, the new priest concelebrates his first Mass at his ordination at my side.
I suspect but can not prove that every seminarian dreams more of his First Mass in his home parish more than the ordination day rite. Who will preach or should I, he might ask. Most choose someone else for this moment as they are nervous enough just being principal celebrant. I was ordained on the Saturday before Pentecost at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami at 11am and celebrated my First Mass as principal celebrant at 5pm at St. James parish in North Miami that same evening – getting everything over in nine hours but I do not recommend it as I was totally “wiped” by the end of the day and the dinner/reception at the parish hall which followed. I told both Fathers Amorose and Corcoran that they needed to especially enjoy this week-end as it would probably be the last time till their 25th anniversary that they would not have to worry about a homily for Sunday.
Generally the first Mass following ordination is in the ordinand’s home parish (see photos below) but today it does not end there. In successive weeks, they will both be celebrating “First Masses” in parishes where they have served as seminarians and deacons (St. Paul , Wellesley, Massachusetts and another parish in Newton for Father Corcoran and Nativity, Brandon, St. Joan of Arc, Boca Raton, and St. Paul’s, Tampa for Father Amorose to name just a few, I suspect). By that time the nervousness and anxiety has worn off and they are comfortable in their new roles. A very generous diocese has given them until July 2nd to report for their first assignments. Additionally, both of these men plan to attend the ordinations of some of their classmates around the country (Fr. Corcoran) and state (Fr. Amorose).
Parish communities rejoice in ordinations and first Masses and in addition to choirs preparing and servers polishing up, usually the Women’s Club works on a lovely reception for all who attend the First Masses immediately following. The Church celebrates its new ministerial life as well as the ordinand. But, for both men, there will come that moment in a few weeks when all the celebrations, concelebrations, ordinations, first Masses, etc. are over and Father reports to begin his first assignment and the beginning of the rest of his life. It is at that moment that he will experience that Gospel passage which is the title for this reflection of mine, “they rolled the stone before the tomb and all withdrew.” My associate Maria Mertens and her family have long been friends with the Amorose family and she attended Father Victor’s First Mass with her camera and took some pictures which I share with you below. Tom Wineman, a parishoner of Sacred Heart parish in Tampa, took a few photos of Father Timothy’s First Mass and graciously shared them with me to post as well.
Hope you enjoyed those. I am off to hand out sheepskins!