Cathedral filled as four new priests are ordained for diocese

Photo Caption: Joining Bishop Jenky to impart the final blessing at their ordination Mass on May 26 are, from left, Father Johnathan Steffen, Father Joel Phelps, Father Timothy Hepner, and Father Daniel Gifford.

By: By Tom Dermody

The ordination of four new priests for the Diocese of Peoria on May 26 not only filled St. Mary’s Cathedral with people — in both side chapels as well as the two balconies — but also filled the edifice with prayer, resounding songs of praise, and repeated applause.

And that wasn’t all.

“Today this cathedral is filled with so much love, pride, and gratitude to God,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at the start of the Mass during which Father Daniel P. Gifford, Father Timothy D. Hepner, Father Joel P. Phelps, and Father Johnathan E. Steffen were ordained to the priesthood.

The first assignments for the newly ordained appear here. Interviews with and biographies of the new priests were printed in the May 13 issue of The Catholic Post.

Following prelude music provided by a choir from Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth, the candidates for ordination entered the cathedral in a procession that included seminarians, deacons, priests, and a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard. The candidates took their place in front of the first pews, which were occupied by their parents, as the assembly sang “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” accompanied by brass, timpani, and a cathedral choir swelled by members of the Immaculate Conception Parish choir.

The candidates for ordination were presented to Bishop Jenky by Msgr. Brian Brownsey, diocesan director of priestly vocations, who then turned and faced the assembly which showed their approval with sustained applause.

In his homily, Bishop Jenky addressed the candidates as “dear sons,” and explained the priestly office in the church. He urged them to “keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be served but to serve, and seek out those who are lost.”

“Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to the Christian faithful to build up the house which is God’s church,” said Bishop Jenky.

The ordination rites included the candidates responding “I do” to several promises, including to “faithfully and reverently” celebrate the mysteries of Christ and pledging respect and obedience to Bishop Jenky and his successors.

The candidates then lay prostrate on the sanctuary floor while the assembly chanted the Litany of the Saints. Afterward, they knelt before the bishop for the laying on of hands, followed by all priests in attendance also imposing hands on the heads of the candidates.

Following a prayer of consecration, the newly ordained were then vested with stole and chasuble. Father Gifford was assisted by Father Mark DeSutter, Father Hepner by Father Terry Cassidy, Father Phelps by Father Bruce Lopez, and Father Steffen by Msgr. Thomas Mack.

The ordination rites concluded with the anointing of the new priests’ hands with sacred Chrism, and exchanges of embraces of peace between the ordinands and the bishop, followed by all priests present.

The mothers of the new priests brought forward the offertory gifts. As each new priest touched the chalice, Bishop Jenky urged them to “understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

The new priests then concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Jenky.

After Communion, Msgr. James Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, noted that Bishop Jenky is observing his tenth anniversary of Bishop of Peoria and expressed gratitude for his example of being a strong shepherd.

“Thank you for your bold proclamation of the truth and for leading us more deeply in ways of holiness,” said Msgr. Kruse. “May our Lord continue to bless you as you shepherd our diocese.”

The assembly responded with a prolonged standing ovation as Bishop Jenky sat in the Bishop’s Chair with his head bowed.

Msgr. Brownsey also addressed the bishop, saying with a smile that “I regret to inform you that you now have four fewer seminarians.”

“But I’m confident,” continued Msgr. Brownsey, “that the wind will blow and someone will respond generously to the Lord and take their place.”

A reception for the new priests followed at the Spalding Pastoral Center, where they imparted first blessings. They celebrated their first Masses the following day at their home parishes.

Among those making the trip for the ordination ceremonies were two busloads of parishioners from St. Mary’s in Pontiac, which is the home parish for both Father Hepner and Father Steffen.

Father Gifford is from Blessed Sacrament Parish, Morton, while Father Phelps’ home parish is St. Philomena’s, Monticello.

(Editor’s note — More coverage will appear in the June 10 print edition of The Catholic Post.)

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