“The Church today gives birth to seven new priests,” said Archbishop Nelson Pérez at the beginning of the Ordination Mass of seven new priests to serve the Church of Philadelphia on Saturday, May 20 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

The newly ordained are Father Anthony J. Albanese, Father Shane M. Flanagan, Father Randall J. Kraft, Father Phong Thanh Le, Father John Chidiebube Okpara, Father Kenneth Ifeanyi Omeke, and Father Wesly L. Taveras Medina, who have all been classmates at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

“As a young boy, he watched EWTN [programs on] the lives of the saints,” said Christina Kraft of her son, Father Randall Kraft.  “I’d watch with him sometimes, and we’d talk about it.  I’d share my own stories about certain saints.”

Kraft’s younger sister Natalie, a student at DeSales University, says she wasn’t surprised to be attending her brother’s ordination.

“I always watched him at Mass when he was an altar server. He was always so intent. He was always peaceful,” she said.

The Rite of Ordination of Priests opened with the hymn, “Jesus Is Risen,” as over 20 members of the Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Color Corps processed up the aisle and raised their swords in salute.

Many seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary followed, the last of whom were the seven ordinandi. Over 100 priests from throughout the five-county archdiocese, as well as the four auxiliary bishops of Philadelphia, and the archbishop were part of the procession.

“It’s a wonderful day on your journey,” said Archbishop Pérez to the ordinandi during his homily.

>>PHOTO FEATURE: Archbishop Pérez Ordains 7 Men to the Priesthood for Philadelphia

Archbishop Pérez noted that all priests in Philadelphia are ordained around this time of year, congratulating those archdiocesan priests celebrating significant anniversaries of their ordination to the priesthood.

“I congratulate all of my classmates, that 34 years ago today, we walked down this aisle,” he added.

Archbishop Pérez then compared the ordinandi to the first Apostles of Jesus.

“You guys have a lot more than they did,” he said, pointing to the fact that that the seven ordinandi have college degrees and studied with knowledgeable professors during their formation at the seminary.

“[The Apostles] didn’t have anything, except what the Lord had given them,” he said.  “They didn’t have a strategic plan.  What they did have was a passionate heart…and then they had a promise…a promise He’d be with them.”

Following the homily and the Promise of the Elect to undertake the Office of the Priesthood was the Laying on of Hands. Archbishop Pérez laid his hands on the head of each candidates followed by the other archdiocesan priests present.

Archbishop Pérez then extended his hands over each of the candidates in the Prayer of Ordination.  The Laying on of Hands and the Prayer of Consecration together constitute the essential elements of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Each new priest was vested in a stole and chasuble, the liturgical attire of a priest, by a priest who is close to the newly ordained. The Anointing of Hands with Sacred Chrism oil followed.

Father Anthony Albanese was vested by Father Michael Gerlach, pastor of Saints Simon and Jude Parish in West Chester, where Albanese served as transitional deacon.

Father Shane Flanagan was vested by Father George Szparagowski, pastor of Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church in North Wales, and former Dean of Men, College Seminary, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.  Flanagan says he connected with Szparagowski since they both grew up in Philadelphia, and they both have fathers who were Philadelphia Fire Fighters.

Father Randall Kraft was vested by Father Robert Suskey, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Southampton, Kraft’s home parish.

“He had his home pastor vest him when he was ordained,” said Kraft of Suskey. “And now he’s going to vest me all these years later.  That doesn’t happen very often.”

Father Phong Le was vested by Monsignor Joseph Trinh, pastor of Saint Helena Catholic Church in Philadelphia, Le’s home parish.

Father John Okpara was vested by Father Christopher Redcay, pastor of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Malvern.  “He has been my Spiritual Director for five years now,” Okpara said of Redcay.

Father Omeke was vested by Monsignor Paul Dougherty, pastor of Saint Margaret of Antioch Church in Narberth, Omeke’s home parish.

Father Wesly Taveras Medina was vested by Father Mariano Dellagiovanna, parochial administrator at Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Darby, and Vice Rector of The Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Philadelphia.

During the Mass, liturgical music was provided by the Cathedral Basilica Choir under the direction of Charlene Angelini with organist, Mark Loria.

Each of the newly ordained priests received their assignment to a parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia where they now serve as parochial vicars. A parochial vicar is a priest appointed by the archbishop to assist the pastor of a parish with his pastoral and administrative duties.

Each newly ordained priest celebrated his first Mass on Sunday, May 21.


Get to know each of the men and their faith journeys that led them to priesthood here