By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Cardinal Justin Rigali ordained six priests for the Philadelphia Archdiocese Saturday, May 15, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

The new priests are Fathers James R. DeGrassa, Thomas J. Gardner, Stephen C. McCarthy, Harold B. McKale III, Michael J. Pawelko and Matthew J. Tralies.

For everything he had studied and prayed for throughout his years at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood to become a reality was “a beautiful thing” for Father Tralies, 29, whose home parish is Visitation B.V.M. in Trooper, Montgomery County. {{more}}

Father McCarthy, 27, of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Fallsington, Bucks County, described the day as “incredible” and receiving the sacrament of holy orders “surreal.”

The highlight of the ceremony for Father McCarthy was when his pastor, Father Donald G. Birch, vested him with the chasuble. “It was the moment when it sunk in – (I’m) vested a priest,” he said. “That was very powerful.”

Feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit was the defining moment for Father DeGrassa, 27, of St. Madeline Parish in Ridley Park, Delaware County. “It was just amazing,” he said.

He also felt the power of the priesthood as, one by one, the numerous priests in attendance laid their hands on his head during the ordination rite.

Father DeGrassa said that night he planned to pray that he would be “a good, faithful, holy and humble priest.”

Father McKale, 38, of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Penndel, Bucks County, was overwhelmed with happiness. “It’s been a long time coming – I can hardly believe it,” he said.

A highlight for him was when the Cardinal led the newly ordained priests to the altar to concelebrate the Mass.

That, too, was a highlight for Father Pawelko, 43, of St. Isidore Parish in Quakertown, Bucks County. “It certainly was becoming real during the ordination rite, but then to be able to concelebrate the Mass was when it really hit home that I am now a … priest in the image of Christ the High Priest,” he said.

For Father Gardner, 26, of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Glenside, Montgomery County, the fraternity of the priesthood, the community of the Church and the love of God came to the fore as the Mass unfolded.

That night, he planned to pray that “the beautiful graces” of ordination would permeate his priesthood “not just today … but for the rest of my life.”

The Cardinal served as the principal celebrant and homilist at the 10 a.m. Mass. “You are here this morning to receive your mission from our Lord Jesus Christ – the One who has risen from the dead, the One who has triumphed over sin,” the Cardinal said to the ordinands in his homily. “In our midst, it is He – the Risen Christ – who in and through the Church and in the power of the Holy Spirit, calls you to the ministry of the priesthood, repeating: ‘As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.'”

In a private meeting immediately following the ordination, Cardinal Rigali issued the priests their first assignments. Each has been appointed to serve as a parochial vicar of a parish, assisting the parish pastor. The assignments are effective Monday, June 21.

Father Tralies is thrilled to begin his priestly duties at St. Robert Bellarmine in Warrington. “I’ve heard so many great things about the pastor (Msgr. James D. Beisel) and the people of the parish,” he said.

Father McKale is ready to begin his assignment at St. Bede the Venerable Parish in Holland, where Msgr. John C. Marine serves as pastor. “I look forward to being there with them. I’m from Bucks County, so I know that neck of the woods very well.”

Father McCarthy said he is eager to serve and celebrate with the faithful of St. William Parish in Northeast Philadelphia and bring them “closer to our Lord.” Father Joseph G. Watson is the pastor there.

Father Pawelko asks the parishioners of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton to pray that he will be “a good and holy priest and a good assistant” to the pastor, Msgr. Anthony J. D’Angelico.

Father Gardner promises the parishioners of St. Christopher Parish in Northeast Philadelphia his prayers and asks them to pray for him so that, “together, we can draw closer to the Lord.” Msgr. Joseph P. Garvin is the pastor there.

To the faithful of Our Lady Grace Parish in Penndel, where Father William B. Dooner serves as pastor, Father DeGrassa said with a smile, “Look out, here I come.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or