June 12, 2015

Three men are ordained priests for archdiocese during June 6 liturgy

Newly ordained Fathers Andrew Syberg, left, Michael Keucher and Adam Ahern join Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and concelebrating priests in praying the eucharistic prayer during a June 6 ordination Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Earlier during the liturgy, Archbishop Tobin ordained the three men to the priesthood. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Newly ordained Fathers Andrew Syberg, left, Michael Keucher and Adam Ahern join Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and concelebrating priests in praying the eucharistic prayer during a June 6 ordination Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Earlier during the liturgy, Archbishop Tobin ordained the three men to the priesthood. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Natalie Hoefer

The music swelled from the choir loft and filled the cathedral, a jubilant chorus of trumpets, French horns and timpani drums fit for a royal coronation.

But rather than royalty, the triumphal sound announced the ordination of three humble shepherds to the priesthood of Christ in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Nearly 800 friends and family members—and 80 priests—filled SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on June 6 for the ordination of Fathers Adam Ahern, Michael Keucher and Andrew Syberg. (See a related photo gallery from the Mass)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin addressed the three men who sat before him and the congregation filling the seats behind them.

“It seems to me that three considerations are especially important in understanding the office which our brothers are to assume today,” he said during his homily. “The ordained ministry should be an exercise in a personal, collegial and communal way.”

The archbishop described the call to the priesthood first as personal.

“My brothers, this call that came to you a long time ago, in the stirring of your hearts, today is heard through the divine call of the Church,” he said. “I think this should give you confidence. The Church has judged your vocation an authentic response to the God who loved us first.”

He went on to clarify the collegial aspect of the priesthood.

“There is a need for a college of ordained ministers, sharing in the combined task of nurturing the community,” he explained. “You will exercise your priestly service in union with your archbishop and your fellow presbyters of the archdiocese.”

The archbishop addressed the men for the first time as “fellow presbyters,” and reminded them of his “weakness and need for you to help me exercise the priesthood that comes to us from the Apostles.”

The archbishop then reflected on the communal facet of the priesthood—the relationship between the priest and the community.

“The exercise of priestly ministry is rooted in the life of the community,” he told the three men. “Even when you preside at the Eucharist, when you are most a priest, you remain part of the assembly of the priestly, holy and royal people of God whose care is entrusted to you.”

Archbishop Tobin’s words were followed by a series of symbolic rituals the three men participated in as part of the sacrament of holy orders: prostration before the altar during the Litany of the Saints; laying-on of hands; donning of priestly vestments; anointing of their hands with chrism oil; presentation of the chalice and paten; and the welcoming embrace by the archbishop and each of the priests in attendance.

“The anointing of the hands was what did it for me,” said Father Ahern, 34, of the moment he realized he was a priest. “Right after the chrism on the palms, I looked over at [Father] Mike [Keucher] and was like, ‘Hey, we’re priests now!’ ”

Father Keucher had the same reaction.

“When all the oils were on my hands. I thought, ‘These hands are now set aside, and they’re going to be bringing Jesus to the world to altars as has been happening for 2,000 years,’ ” he said. “And now he’s here to use my hands.”

Father Syberg realized he was a priest during the eucharistic prayer of the Mass.

“The institution narrative is when it struck me,” he said. “ ‘This is my body. This is my blood.’ At every ordination, something different hits me. That was it for this one.”

Other rituals also held meaning for the new priests.

Father Keucher, 29, said his most memorable moment was lying prostrate before the altar during the Litany of the Saints.

“I just lost it when my confirmation patron saint, Philip Neri, was named,” he said. “He’s been with me every second of the way, and he was there in a very powerful way today.”

All three men expressed an overflowing sense of joy and gratitude.

“I’m just so weight-of-the-world-off-your-shoulders-relieved, just so happy—it’s just so amazing and incredible,” Father Ahern gushed after the Mass with an ear-to-ear grin. “It’s strange to be called ‘Father,’ but it sounds really, really good!”

Father Keucher found it “humbling” to be called “Father.”

“I am not worthy of the dignity of the priesthood, and yet God called me to it anyway,” he said. “To hear that validated by the way people are addressing me is awesome and reassuring.”

Overcome with gratitude, Father Syberg, 32, simply said, “I never thought my heart would be so big.”

Sharing in his joy was his brother, Father Benjamin Syberg, who was ordained last year.

“God loves us so much and wants our peace and joy,” said Father Benjamin. “Seeing that in [my brother] brings joy and peace to me. He’s going to be—and he is—an incredible man and a special priest.”

Seeing Father Benjamin lay his hands on his brother was a “special moment” for their parents, Keith and Kathleen Syberg.

Having a son ordained just one year ago, the Sybergs know that their relationship with a priest-son “is a changed relationship—he belongs to so many more people,” said Keith.

Father Ahern’s mother, Marian, said this new relationship “is not a sacrifice—it’s a gift.

“Adam has a lot bigger family now,” she said. “He has a lot more children to take to heaven with him.”

As with the sacrament of marriage, said Father Keucher’s mother, Diane, “The man leaves his home, and his wife and children come first. All we [parents] are is custodians and stewards of the kids, entrusted by God to raise them and send them out.”

Before the closing hymn, Archbishop Tobin thanked the parents of Fathers Ahern, Keucher and Syberg “for the atmosphere of your homes that allowed your sons not only the sensitivity to listen to God’s call, but the freedom to answer.”

The archbishop’s thanks extended far beyond the homes in which the new priests were raised.

He recalled a former superior general of the Jesuits citing “well-heated churches” for an increase in vocations from countries in the southern hemisphere.

“That’s not talking about the weather outside, but the openness to the Holy Spirit to set them on fire,” the archbishop explained. “And that fire produced all sorts of vocations: to the diocesan priesthood, to the religious life, to committed marriage, to lay apostolates.

“I would like to thank the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for your openness to the Holy Spirit.

“I think of the 1,100 people who found their way into our Church at the Easter vigil this year. I think of the growing number of people who contributed to the United Catholic Appeal and made it possible, among other projects, for us to have a formation of deacons and priests. I think of all the good people in this archdiocese … people who are open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, and thus allowing the Church to produce all sorts of vocations. I thank God for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

Those words touched Father Keucher, who said he is “a product of that fire.

“I’ve seen that fire all over the [archdiocese],” he said. “There is a fire. I can see it, and I feel it very strongly, having been in it.

“I hope to do the best I can as a priest to keep it going, to fan the flames and make it grow all the bigger.”

(To learn more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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