By Tracey Primrose
As Jesuits West’s June 10th ordination liturgy began, Most Reverend Gerald Kicanas, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Tucson, asked the families of the four Jesuits being ordained to stand. Saying that “I know that there are people here who know these four men well but none more than their own families. I wish they would stand for just a moment that we might thank the parents and brothers and sisters for all they have done to inspire these four candidates.”
With that, hundreds of Jesuits, extended family members, colleagues and friends who filled Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, California, responded with a rousing ovation. It was the perfect way to begin the province’s heartfelt celebration of the ordinations of James Antonio, Tim Breen, Eddie Ngo and Simon Zachary.
A short time later, applause once again filled the Jesuit parish on Sunset Boulevard as Jesuits West’s provincial, Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, presented the candidates for ordination to the bishop, who inquired as to their worthiness before proclaiming: “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the order of priesthood.”
In his homily, Bishop Kicanas spoke directly to the Jesuits being ordained, saying, “James, Tim, Eddie and Simon, you have been called to bring glad tidings to the poor, to mend broken hearts. … So be good listeners, attentive listeners … learn about your people, understand their struggles. Become familiar with their delights. If you walk with your people, your message, your words will matter. Preach well, preach from the heart. Preach knowing those to whom you speak. Be messengers of mercy, who mend the hearts of broken people.”
The Rite of Ordination has many deeply symbolic and beautiful moments. After the bishop questions the candidates on their willingness to undertake the tasks and obligations of the priesthood, they express their resolve in accord with “the mind of Christ and the Church.” The bishop then invites the assembly to pray for the candidates, who prostrate themselves in a biblical gesture of humility.
One of the most poignant moments follows next: the laying on of hands. The bishop and concelebrating priests confer on the candidates the gift of the Holy Spirit by placing their hands on top of the heads of the candidates and offering a prayer. Because it was only a few years ago that Covid restrictions severely limited the number of attendees to only a handful of people, there was palpable joy this year that more than 100 Jesuits could participate in this ancient ritual.
For Fr. Simon Zachary, SJ, the moment when the newly ordained are vested by a fellow Jesuit with the liturgical garments worn for the celebration of the Mass, is a highlight of the ordination liturgy. “I asked Fr. Tony Harris to vest me. I met Tony when I was a novice and he is just an incredible guy, just a really wise man, very spiritually insightful, and so down to earth, really just able to laugh.”
Fr. Eddie Ngo, SJ, asked Fr. Mike Engh, SJ, chancellor of Loyola Marymount University, to vest him. “Mike is one of the smartest Jesuits I know, but he is also one of the most humble and pastoral ones. From the first time we met, I knew that this is someone I can always turn to and seek out if I need anything. And that’s been the truth.”
Fr. Tim Breen, SJ, has spent years helping plan ordination liturgies, but this year it was his turn. In advance of his ordination, he talked about one of his favorite moments. “Right after the bishop anoints the hands of the newly ordained with sacred chrism, they come off the altar and just sort of prepare for the next step. And the look on the faces of these guys is something really special because you can see they’re overwhelmed, which I’m sure I will be too. They’ve experienced so much in such a short amount of time, the love of all the people there, the prayers, the music, everything. It kind of hits you at that point.”
Each of the four new priests will soon head in different directions. Later this summer, Fr. Simon Zachary, SJ, will begin his service at Seattle Preparatory School, where he will teach theology and social studies and assist in campus ministry and adult faith formation. Bishop Kicanas told him: “Simon, engage those young people. You know, young people today are confused, they’re worried, they’re wondering, they’re anxious. Tell them how important they are. Tell them that the Lord is there for them.”
Fr. Eddie Ngo, SJ, will serve at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Phoenix. The bishop told him, “Get close to your people, understand what they’re struggling with and what brings them joy. Love your people.”
Bishop Kicanas made a joke about Jesuits’ many years of academic training to Fr. Tim Breen, SJ, who will study for a master’s in sports administration at Gonzaga University, and Fr. James Antonio, SJ, who will return to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry for an advanced theology degree. “Timothy and James, how much more school can we do?” He quickly added: “Don’t stay stuck in your ideas but get to know the reality of those to whom you will teach, those to whom you will open up God’s word and God’s love. You see, study can expand our gifts only if it is used in the service of our sisters and brothers.”
Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, provincial of Jesuits West, also took a moment to speak directly to his newly ordained brother Jesuits. “To Tim, James, Simon and Eddie, we’re just so grateful to you for saying yes to God, and we are very grateful to you for saying yes to walking along this path with us as Jesuits on this day. You’ve offered yourself as a gift to God, and God has poured God’s grace into you. So, thank you. And may God bless you.”
With a sly nod to the length of the more than two-hour liturgy, Bishop Kicanas closed by saying, “Good evening. I know this took a little while, but you know, we only get ordained once. So, it’s a very special moment. Let’s again congratulate all our newly ordained and may the Lord be with you and may Almighty God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, send God’s blessings upon each of you and all of your loved ones and remain with you forever. Amen.”
To watch the recording of the Ordination Mass, click here.