By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA – In keeping with a long-standing tradition, on May 19 Philadelphia’s six newly ordained priests, Fathers Jonathan J. Dalin, Anthony Rossi, Jeffrey M. Rott, Richard J. Smith, Michael G. Speziale and John Weber concelebrated Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Center City, then were guests of honor at a luncheon hosted by the Serra Clubs of Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Union League. Also present were family, pastors, priest friends and high school students.
A surprise visitor at the luncheon was Cardinal Justin Rigali who stopped in to congratulate them and also give tribute to the Serrans, whose sole mission is the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
“I want to reiterate the esteem the Church has for Serra International, for the wonderful work it has done, and how proud we are to have Serra in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and all of you who support the great cause of the priesthood,” the Cardinal said. “Thank you for your fidelity.”
Earlier, the principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass was Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, who took time out from an obviously busy schedule to be with the newly ordained priests and the Serrans. Afterwards he left for the airport to fly to Saginaw, Mich. for the official announcement the next day of his appointment as bishop of that diocese.
His homily focused on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts how Paul and Silas chose not to escape from prison when given the opportunity for fear of getting their harsh jailer in trouble and through this converted him and his family.
“The priest is sent to win souls, to find the lost sheep,” Bishop Cistone told the newly ordained. “It is much more comfortable for us as priests to just hang and associate with those who think the way we think and are comfortable with what we preach. [But] every single person in the world is important to the Lord.”
Currently there are four Serra clubs in the Archdiocese: the Serra Club of Philadelphia, the Dorchester Serra Club, the Serra Club of Central Delaware County and the Serra Club of Northeast Philadelphia.
“The Serra clubs of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are most pleased to be able to support the Annual Pastors Ordinati Mass and Luncheon,” said Arthur J. Burke, regional governor for Serra. “The concelebrated Mass, personal message from each of the priests and inspanidual blessings for Serrans and their guests combine to make it an inspiring event for all those who attend, including the high school students.”
“This year’s event was especially noteworthy in having Bishop Cistone celebrate the Mass at St. John’s before assuming his new duties as bishop of Saginaw and in having his Eminence graciously visit us during our luncheon,” said Eugene Boggia, president of the Serra Club of Philadelphia. “The Serra clubs of the Philadelphia Archdiocese fully recognize the importance of developing and sustaining vocations to maintain the strength of our sacramental Church, which has provided us with so many blessings.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.