VATICAN CITY – When John D'Orazio knelt before Pope John Paul II to be ordained a priest on May 11, the Holy Father might not have realized the significance of the moment for D'Orazio.
For the first time, John Paul was ordaining a man who was not yet born when he was elected Pope in October 1978. Father D'Orazio, 24, a native of Manchester, N.H., came to Rome seven years ago and was ordained for the Diocese of Rome.
The Holy Father traditionally ordains priests for service in the Diocese of Rome on “Good Shepherd” Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, which is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Among the 31 new priests, there were five North Americans in addition to Father D'Orazio. Four Americans and one Canadian were ordained from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, a new American community founded in 1958 by Father James Flanagan, who acknowledged that the day was a “historic” day for his community and a “great day for Our Lady.”
Encouraging the new priests to be men “of the Word” and men “of the Eucharist,” John Paul told them that “especially in the Holy Mass” they will grow into “more intimate configuration to Jesus the Good Shepherd, the eternal high priest.”
Referring to his recent encyclical on the Eucharist, the Holy Father encouraged the new priests to spend more time in Eucharistic adoration at “important moments of your life, in times of personal decisions and pastoral difficulties, and the beginning and at the end of your day.”
“I can assure you that I have experienced this and drawn from it strength, consolation and support,” the Pope said.
The annual ordinations usually include the local seminarians from Rome as well as seminarians from the Neocatechumenal Way movement who have come to the Rome Diocese and will serve in Roman parishes.
This year, special permission was given for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity seminarians to be ordained along with the Romans, as they have recently been entrusted with the pastoral care of a parish in Rome.
The society, which includes approximately 150 priests, 80 seminarians, 90 sisters and 2,500 lay associates, is in the process of moving its headquarters from the United States to Rome.
“This is a great gift to us and to the society from Our Lady on Mother's Day,” said newly ordained Father Derek Anderson, 27, from Issaquah, Wash. He will be assigned to the new parish, to be called Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
Father Anderson recalled how he received the surprising news that the Pope himself would be ordaining them: “Our superior, Father Flanagan, burst into my room without knocking and just handed me the letter without saying anything – I started to read it and my reaction was just disbelief.”
A fellow deacon and university classmate, Kevin Martin of Maine, reacted to the news by telling the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity members, “It's not bad to be ordained by a saint.”
The lone Canadian ordained, Father Mark Wendling, 30, from Burlington, Ontario, recalled first seeing the Pope in Canada in 1984.
“I felt that he looked right at me,” the former biochemistry major at the University of Toronto recalled, adding that he made a childhood scrapbook of newspaper articles from the Canadian papal visit. Now his ordination photographs will complete that scrap-book of papal memories.
Father Anderson, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, also remembers the first time he met the Holy Father – at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993.
“When I first saw him, I just began to cry – I felt that Jesus was present to me,” he remembered. Four years in Rome have made Father Anderson more composed in the presence of the Holy Father, though his face, like his fellow new priests, was beaming with joy.
The other three American priests ordained, all Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity members, were Father Scott Braathen, 35, from Michigan; Father Brian List, 32, from New York; and Father Margarito Sanchez Navarro, 52, of California.
Father Raymond J. de Souza writes from Rome.