Three men elevated to the office of the Priesthood

Deacons Becker, Fox and Leete prostrate themselves on the floor before the altar. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — It had been a long, at times bumpy, road toward the priesthood for three men. But on May 19, their journeys were completed. In a joy-filled ancient rite, Deacons Jayson David Sebastian Becker, Timothy Robert Leete and William P. Fox, III were ordained priests for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Clad in white albs and stoles worn over the left shoulder and tied at the right hip, the three deacons followed a procession of priests, deacons, seminarians and servers through an honor guard of the Knights of Columbus. They were seated on the north side of the sanctuary near the baptismal font.

In his homily, the bishop acknowledged and thanked the parents and families of the ordinands. He also asked that they continue the love, prayers and encouragement as Jayson, Timothy and William begin their service to the People of God as priests of Jesus Christ.

There were many others present, both from “within and beyond our diocese,” who had a role, — relative, friend, seminary formator — and he thanked them as well as the Serra Clubs, the Knights and Dames of Malta, Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Knights of Peter Claver and the Knights of Columbus for their presence and support of seminarians and priests.

Before sharing the words of the homily provided by the Ordination Ritual Book, he reflected on the Word of God and “the particular circumstances of our local Church.”

“First, the life of a priest must be more like a pilgrim than that of a tourist. … There is a difference. The tourist is going for leisure, for pleasure, perhaps for a vacation or even some on-going education. Nothing wrong with that. But, it is fundamentally different from the purposes of a pilgrim. A pilgrim travels for another purpose. To seek God, to encounter God in the course of the journey and in the midst of those on the pilgrimage with him. The destination, in a sense, is God and an encounter with Him; to have one’s heart opened to a new and needed grace. To move, both physically and existentially, closer to one’s eternal destination. A pilgrim recognizes too that he meets God in the midst of his fellow travelers and the experiences they share together.

“My point, Jayson, Timothy and Bill, is that as parish priests, you are traveling ‘on the way’ with your people—you are pilgrims with them as their priests. You will be priests who will serve them, but your own journey to heaven is intimately tied to them and, in some way, dependent on them. To use Jesus’ own terminology, you are not ‘hired men’ but ‘shepherds.’ Our Lord speaks tenderly to St. Peter (and to you) in the Gospel about this today. If your love for the Lord is authentic, you will feed and tend his sheep. As a priest, you cannot do one without the other.

“You will do this through your ministry of celebrating the sacraments generously for them; by feeding them with wisdom from God’s Word; but also through your charity, your kindness, your generous availability for them.

“And so, vocationally, a priest is not a tourist, but a pilgrim.”

Bishop Johnston said he recently read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today’s world. “The title in Latin is Gaudete et Exultate; in English, ‘Rejoice and be glad.’ In one section, he identifies five ‘signs’ of holiness … indicators that one is living is such a way as to grow in holiness.”

The bishop said he also sees the five signs of holiness as five signs of a healthy priestly ministry. The first sign: Perseverance, Patience and Meekness. “The pope’s point is that these … are needed for the long run in the midst of a world that is very much divided and in turmoil. These are the things that bring holy stability to the flock and to oneself. Pope Francis quotes St. John of the Cross, who said: ‘Rejoice in the good of others as if it were your own, and desire that they be given precedence over you in all things; this you should do wholeheartedly. You will thereby overcome evil with good, banish the devil, and possess a happy heart. Try to practice this all the more with those who least attract you. Realize that if you do not train yourself in this way, you will not attain real charity or make any progress in it.’”

The second sign: Joy and a Sense of Humor. “Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and of God’s love. Joy is what makes us and the Catholic Faith most attractive. A parish priest must be approachable, and joy is the thing that makes us most approachable. And so, Fathers, don’t be grim … smile. It sounds almost too simple.”

The third sign: Boldness and Passion. “ … Jesus told his Apostles, ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mk 6:50), ‘I am with you always, to the end of the world’ (Mt 28:20). “We are to go forth and serve with the same courage that the Holy Spirit stirred up in the Apostles, impelling them to proclaim Jesus Christ.”

The fourth sign: being in Community. “No one can be saved alone, including a priest. Pope Francis says here: ‘When we live apart from others, it is very difficult to fight against concupiscence, the snares and temptations of the devil and the selfishness of the world. Bombarded as we are by so many enticements we can grow too isolated, lose our sense of reality and inner clarity, and easily succumb.’”

Bishop Johnston continued, “The Church and the parishes you will serve in, are places of communion and community. God calls us to be connected and dependent on each other. Be men of community; both in your parish and in the presbyterate you will enter today. Without this, you place yourself in danger.

“The fifth sign of holiness: In Constant Prayer. ‘It might seem obvious,’ the Holy Father says, but ‘we should remember that holiness consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration.’ Jesus told his disciples, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ Be men who are connected to the Lord in prayer, not only for your own priestly life and ministry, but as an example to the people you serve.

“Take these things to heart and you will stay on the way to being holy and effective priests.”

He then turned to the homily in the Ordination Ritual Book, and read it aloud.

Bishop James V. Johnston addresses the 3 deacons at the start of their Mass of Ordination, May 19. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

At its conclusion, the sacramental ritual of Holy Orders proceeded, with Deacons Becker, Fox and Leete prostrating themselves on the floor before the altar as the choir sang the Litany of the Saints. They then, one by one, approached the bishop, and knelt before him as Bishop Johnston placed his hands on each deacon’s head, ordaining him priest as the Apostles did 2,000 years ago.

The three new priests came around the front of the altar to be vested with chasuble and stole. Father Becker was vested by his friend Father Dan Steiner, associate pastor Cathedral of the Incarnation, Nashville, Tenn., Father Fox was vested by Father Joseph Nohs, associate Pastor St. Bernard Church, Levittown, NY, Diocese of Rockville Centre, and Father Leete was vested by Father Kevin Drew, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Trenton and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Princeton, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

First, their stoles were removed and then draped around both shoulders indicating their change in rank from Deacon to Priest. They then received the chasuble. As Father Becker’s head emerged his smile was wide. Fathers Fox and Leete were also smiling happily.

They returned to the bishop who anointed their hands with the Oil of Chrism. Following the Handing Over of the Bread and Wine, the new priests stood at the front of the sanctuary to receive the fraternal kiss of peace from their brother priests and ordained deacons.

They then sat in their chairs as the altar was dressed for the Eucharistic celebration by recently ordained Deacons Andrew Kleine, Emmanuel Garduño Lopez and Kendall Ketterlin.

When their brother priests came to the altar to share in the liturgy, Fathers Becker, Leete and Fox joined them. Alongside Bishop Johnston, they distributed Holy Communion, first to their parents, then to family and friends and to the assembled congregation.

A reception in the Catholic Center a few blocks away honored the new priests, after they gave their first priestly blessings to their parents and families. They also learned their first assignments. Bishop Johnston appointed Father Fox to be Parochial Vicar at St. Peter and St. Therese Little Flower Parishes with residence at St. Peter. Father Leete is appointed Parochial Vicar at St. Mark and St. Joseph the Worker Parishes, Independence with residence at St. Mark. A few days earlier, then-Deacon Leete was presented the chalice of the late Father Charles Jones, who had also served at St. Mark’s. Father Jones’ friend and caregiver Tonya Huey made the presentation with sacristan Ann Falkenburg.

Father Becker is appointed Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of St. Joseph and St. Mary Parish, St. Joseph with residence at Cathedral of St. Joseph. His own father, Deacon James Becker of Mucatine, Iowa, watched his son’s ordination to the priesthood and served as his deacon at Father Becker’s first Mass the following day at Christ the King Church.

Congratulations to our new diocesan priests!

Bishop James V. Johnston, poses with the newly ordained Fathers on the Cathedral steps immediately following the Ordination Mass. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph