June 10, 2005

Archbishop encourages new priests to follow the example of Bishop Bruté

By Sean Gallagher

With their future coming into view, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein called on Deacons Shaun Whittington and William M. Williams to look back 170 years and model their lives as priests after a man who conquered seemingly insurmountable obstacles to serve God’s people in Indiana.

The two deacons, who were about to be ordained to the priesthood on June 4 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, listened to the archbishop recount the life and ministry of the founding bishop of the Church in Indiana, Bishop Simon Bruté.

“As new priests, you become intercessors in prayer, missionaries of the Word, intercessors of the sacred, missionaries of love and mercy—a mission no different than that of Simon Bruté,” he said.

Archbishop Buechlein noted his predecessor’s reputation for learning, holiness and for being a wise spiritual director.

He also told the story of how Bishop Bruté was called on a winter night to attend to a dying man several miles from his home in Vincennes. When his guide soon refused to lead him through the deep snow, the bishop led the way and invited his companion to follow in his footsteps.

Father Williams said after the liturgy that this story had a direct impact on him.

“Immediately, that just struck me, ‘That’s what we’re called to do,’ ” he said. “As priests, we’re called to be the ones to help people through the deep snow, through the tough times in their spiritual lives, their physical lives, from birth to death. And I know that Christ has entrusted me with that, the care of his people. And I take it very seriously.”

Archbishop Buechlein, who has announced that in the coming months he will formally open the cause for the beatification of Bishop Bruté, quoted a letter written soon after his death by a priest who served under him.

“ ‘Bishop Bruté set the example of the most brotherly affection,’ ” he said. “ ‘When he was with us, we did not feel our weariness. Nothing was hard to us. And we scarcely knew we were poor, although deprived of almost every necessity of life.’

“Shaun and Bill … You and I, you and our brother priests, need each other. And together, we need our sisters and brothers. And they need us. Together, like Bishop Bruté, we can be with each other so that nothing seems hard and the feeling of weariness is lifted.”

Turning to the more than 1,000 people in the cathedral, Archbishop Buechlein asked them to support those to be ordained not only on their ordination day, but also in the months and years to come.

“Sisters and brothers, these, our brothers, need our prayer, our love and our support,” he said. “No one here should be a mere passive witness to their trust in Christ. Dear ordinands, our presence here is a pledge of our prayer and support.”

Following the archbishop’s instruction, the rite of ordination continued. A moving moment in the liturgy occurred when the two deacons laid prostrate on the cathedral floor while all present prayed the litany of the saints for them.

As he lay face down, Deacon Whitting-ton thought about the new life he was about to accept.

“Last night when I went to confession before the ordination, the priest said one thing, ‘Tomorrow, you die,’ ” he said following the Mass. “And as I was lying on the floor, I thought about that, that I am dying. I’m trying to die to myself, to my own sinfulness, to my own will, to my own desires, and to take on ever more deeply the will and the desires and the love and the mercy of God himself.”

Father Whittington’s mother, Patricia, who was kneeling a few feet away from her prostrate son, said the moment symbolized the great change that was about to take place in his life.

“It will be a life of sacrifice, [putting] his people before himself,” she said. “Just being prostrate on the ground symbolizes that, I think. He has to be humble and everything’s for God now. It has to be and that’s just a striking pose when they lay there.”

Father Whittington’s father, Neil, said that while he had witnessed that particular ritual before in his son’s ordination to the diaconate, it struck him in a special way during his priesthood ordination.

“I’d seen it before, but it really didn’t hit me before,” he said. “At that point, I knew it was the thing. I knew it was for real and that everything he’s been working for all his life was right there.”

Father Williams’ mother, Dolores, said she was especially struck by the visible sign of support that the priests of the archdiocese gave to her son during his ordination, laying their hands on his head in prayer and later embracing him in a sign of peace. But she was pleased by the liturgy as a whole.

“It was fantastic,” Williams said. “I’m thrilled, but I always knew he was going to be a priest. This is not the end, but the beginning. And I’m just so excited …”

Seeing so many priests welcome her son to their number moved Patricia Whittington to gratitude for their lives of service.

“I’m just thankful that we have the presbyterate that we have,” she said. “It’s a great blessing for the archdiocese. I think the archdiocese is blessed that they are here, and the up and coming that are in the seminary now. There’s a wonderful group of men ready to [become priests].”

Father Joseph Moriarty, archdiocesan vocations director, was one of those priests who took part in the liturgy. It will be the last ordination Mass for him as vocations director. On July 1, he begins ministry as the associate director of spiritual formation for Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

“It’s just been a great blessing over the past seven years to serve,” he said. “And I was particularly conscious of it today, as I embraced them and called them both ‘Father’ for the first time. [I’m] somewhat emotional: happy to be continuing in formation, but mixed feelings today—feelings that I’m embracing God’s will, but also a sense of sadness that this will be the last one as vocations director that I’m witnessing.”

Father Whittington celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving later that same day at 5:30 p.m. at St. Michael Church in Brookville, his home parish. Among those priests concelebrating were Father Patrick Beidelman, pastor of St. Michael Parish and Holy Guardian Angels Parish in Cedar Grove; Father Stephen Giannini, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis; and Father Jonathan Meyer, associate pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.

Father Robert Skeris, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and former chaplain of Christendom College, where Father Whittington earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, was the homilist at the Mass.

On July 6, Father Whittington will begin his ministry as associate pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

Father Williams celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at 2:30 p.m. on June 5 at Our Lady of the Greenwood Church in Greenwood, his home parish. Among those priests concelebrating were Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general of the archdiocese, Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf, pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish and former pastors of Our Lady of the Greenwood, Msgr. Harold Knueven and Father Joseph Riedman.

Msgr. Daniel Kutys, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the deputy secretary of the Office for Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where Father Williams had served as an intern, was the homilist at the Mass.

On July 6, Father Williams will begin his ministry as the associate pastor of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis and as chaplain of Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. †


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