By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
ST. JOSEPH — And then there were 10.
The June 27 ordinations of Father Alex Kreidler and Father Andrew Mattingly brought that historic number of new priests ordained since last October to serve the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
And the ordination was historic in another way as well.
The two St. Joseph natives were the first priests to be ordained at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph since Bishop Charles H. Helmsing ordained Father John Schuele, another St. Joseph native, almost exactly 40 years earlier on June 18, 1976.
“I thank Alex and Andrew, boys from St. Joseph, for giving us cause to celebrate this morning in this city and in this Cathedral dedicated to the foster father of Jesus, St. Joseph,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in his homily as he was about to ordain the diocese’s two newest priests.
“It is a joy and privilege as apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to be the human instrument Our Lord uses to ordain you to his priesthood,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Naumann praised Bishop Robert W. Finn, who concelebrated the ordination Mass, for the bumper crop of priests in the past eight months.
“These are extraordinary numbers,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“Equally impressive are the number of men in priestly formation in the diocese,” he said. “This is a beautiful fruit of (Bishop Finn’s) ministry as bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph that will bear fruit for generations.”
In addition to Father Kreidler and Father Mattingly, Father James Carlyle was ordained Oct. 18, 2014.
On May 23, barely a month earlier, Bishop Finn himself ordained seven priests: Father Bryan Amthor, Father Joshua Barlett, Father Ryan Koster, Father Gabriel Lickteig, Father Jorge Moreno, Father Luis Felipe Suarez, and Father Curt Vogel.
“It is not just the quantity of priestly ordinations, but the quality of priests and seminarians that is so important,” Archbishop Naumann said. “I have been impressed with both the quality and quantity. Thank you Bishop Finn for all that you have done to foster and nurture priestly vocations for the diocese.”
Delivering his homily just minutes before he was to ordain them, Archbishop Naumann made it clear to both men and to the congregation the “amazing” transformation that was about to happen.
“Coming into the Cathedral even to this moment, you are powerless to make Our Lord present for his people in the Eucharist. At this moment, you are not able to pray the words of absolution and to liberate another from sin and its effects,” he said.
“In just a few moments, the Holy Spirit will descend upon you and empower you to be the human instrument Our Lord uses to give these great gifts to his people,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“I suppose it is going to feel unreal for some time,” he said. “You may be tempted like Jeremiah in the first reading today to say: ‘Ah Lord God! I know not how to speak. I am too young,’” the archbishop said.
“Yet the Lord likes to use those that the world considers weak and lowly and humanly speaking, unqualified to be his special instruments of grace,” he said.
“He particularly enjoys choosing the young to serve him — like the boy David to fight the giant Goliath, or John the Evangelist to be his beloved to disciple, or most especially Mary, who was just a very young woman when Our Lord called her to fulfill the most important role in all of salvation history,” he said.
“Believe with all your heart the authority that Jesus himself gave to his church to confer his priestly power to those she calls to serve as ordained ministers. The Lord has chosen both of you to be his human instrument, weak earthen vessel that you are, to make his love and mercy present to his people,” he said. “Say not that you are too young.”
Archbishop Naumann recalled his own ordination in St. Louis, 40 years and one month earlier, celebrated by Cardinal John Carberry.
Cardinal Carberry told that ordination class to respect and insist upon the title “Father” in all its deepest meanings, because they were to be the spiritual fathers of God’s people.
“I am often edified by the heroic love I observe in human fathers,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“I am struck by the sacrifices that they are willing to make for the good of their children,” he said.
“Fathers will often work long hours, sometimes even a second job, in order to provide the needs of their children,” he said. “A father will sacrifice his own wants and desires so that his children have whatever they need or have education or professional opportunities the father himself never enjoyed.”
So it is with spiritual fathers, Archbishop Naumann said.
“You are being called to be willing to endure hardship or discomfort, to make any sacrifice for the welfare, particularly the spiritual welfare, for your people,” he said.
It is possible through Christ.
“Priests are called in a special way to configure themselves to Christ, particularly to Christ crucified,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“Jesus told his disciples that they were to love one another as he had loved them. Jesus not only told them, but he would show them that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann told the two young men that he will also present to them a chalice and paten, saying to them: “Conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
“These are powerful and challenging words, but they summarize what the life of a priest is meant to be,” he said.
“It is not about living a life of a comfortable bachelor. Rather it is accepting the call to be a father, to lay down your life in love of God’s children — no matter what personal sacrifice that may require from you,” he said.
But the ministry of the priesthood is also one of joy, Archbishop Naumann said.
“The life of a priest is a privileged life, not because of the material blessings, but because we are given front row seats to witness God’s working in the hearts of his people,” he said.
“We have the opportunity to see God provide for his people in time of suffering and adversity, to witness the liberation his mercy brings to those weighed down with sin, to see God multiply his Bread of Life to nourish and strengthen with his love the child and the octogenarian, the CEO and the street person, the strong and the weak,” he said.
And they will have the support and the intercession of the saints, invoked by the congregation as they pray the Litany of the Saints as the two young men lay on the Cathedral floor, moments before they are ordained.
“We ask St. Andrew and St. Alexander to pray for you, for St. Joseph to help you be great fathers for the Body of Christ, for St. Cyril of Alexandria, whose feast we celebrate today and who defended the title of Mary as Mother of God, to pray that you may be bearers of her son to the world today,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“We ask Mary, the Immaculata and Our Mother of Perpetual Help, to place you under her mantle to make your fiat with the same eagerness and trust, believing that the Lord can use your many gifts and even your weaknesses to bring the love of her son to so many,” he said.
“In the words of the Archangel Gabriel, ‘All things are possible with God.’ Amen,” Archbishop Naumann said.