It was a joy-filled Mass for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput ordained seven men to the priesthood at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Saturday, May 16. (See a photo gallery.)
Five of the new priests, Fathers Daniel J. Arechabala, Alexander Gibbs, Steven W. Kiernan, Addisalem T. Mekonnen and Joseph S. Zaleski, received their formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. The other two, Fathers James J. Cardosi and Kevin T. Mulligan, studied at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., a seminary for men age 30 years or older. All will begin their priestly life as parochial vicars in the archdiocese.
The first two readings from Scripture at the impressive liturgy centered on the role of the priest. The Gospel, taken from the Gospel of St. John, echoed the words of Jesus Christ, the High Priest: “…I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”
Basing his homily on Christ the Good Shepherd, Archbishop Charles Chaput said, “Like the shepherd, Jesus leads us, feeds us and protects us.”
Priests, he told the men about to be ordained, “are chosen to carry out the ministry of the one Good Shepherd in the life of our Christian community. In other words you will be called to lead, to go before God’s people, to feed them with his word…. You will unite your lives and your wills to Jesus, so that your actions become one with his actions.”
After the ordination Mass Archbishop Chaput thanked the parents for giving their sons to the church and issued a plea for the promotion of vocations to the priesthood, noting that every year more priests retire than are ordained.
The archbishop also gave his newly ordained priests their first parish assignments as parochial vicars.
Father Arechabala will serve at Mary Mother of the Redeemer, North Wales; Father Cardosi at St. Denis, Havertown; Father Gibbs at St. Mary Magdalen, Media; Father Kiernan at St. Anthony of Padua, Ambler; Father Mekonnen at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Warminster; Father Mulligan at Our Lady of Calvary, Philadelphia and Father Zaleski at St. Katherine of Siena, Philadelphia.
Some facts about the newly ordained: Three — Father, Arechabala, Father Mekonnen and Father Zaleski — attended St. Charles Seminary for both college and theology while four received their bachelor’s degree from secular institutions, including Father Cardosi, the U.S. Naval Academy; Father Gibbs, Temple University; Father Kiernan, Penn State University and Father Mulligan, Slippery Rock State College.
Two, Father Arechabala and Father Kiernan, celebrated their first Mass on May 17 at the same church – Mother of Divine Providence in King of Prussia. Two others celebrated in Norristown but at different churches: Father Cardosi at St. Titus and Father Mulligan at Visitation B.V.M.
Father Gibbs celebrated at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, North Wales.
There were two Philadelphians — Father Mekonnen, who celebrated at St. Francis de Sales Church, and Father Zaleski, who celebrated at St. Martin of Tours Church.
Father Zaleski is almost certainly the first priest in the history of the Philadelphia Archdiocese to have his own father preach the homily at his first Mass. His dad, Deacon Stanley Zaleski, is a permanent deacon assigned to St. Martin’s and a retired teacher at Father Judge High School.
As to what he would tell his son in the homily, “I’ll tell him we love him,” Deacon Zaleski said after the ordination Mass. “That is something every priest needs to hear.”
That was certainly the general sentiment of the families and friends who attended the ordination.
“I feel so great, God has given me a great gift,” said Tsadu Mekonnen, the mother of Father Mekonnen.
John Mulligan, the father of Father Mulligan, said his ordination was “a wonderful gift from God. I hope he is setting the example for more young or older men to become priests.”
Christians really have two sets of parents, and in Father Gibbs’ case, his godmother, Diana Stricker, was at the ordination and ecstatic.
“I’m so happy and thrilled,” she said. “Alex is going to be a wonderful priest because he is a wonderful fellow.”
You might say Bishop Timothy Senior was a surrogate parent to the five new priests from St. Charles Seminary, where he has been rector for the past three years.
“We, as bishops and priests, are so inspired by these wonderful men who are giving their lives to Christ,” he said. “It is a great witness to the vitality of the faith here in Philadelphia and this is a wonderful, glorious day.”