Story by Paul McAvoy
Photos by Ed Casey
Bishop John Barres ordained five men — Fathers Michael Bissex, Liam McDonald, Michael Plona, Christopher Sullivan and John Wachowicz –to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rockville Centre on June 24, the feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
St. Agnes Cathedral was filled with hundreds of friends, family members, and the faithful of Long Island as people came to witness the ordination of the five newest priests of the diocese. Dozens of priests processed into the Cathedral followed by Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Barres, who presided over the ordination. After the Liturgy of the Word, the five candidates were called forward. They knelt before Bishop Barres and promised obedience to him and his successors. They pledged, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to faithfully and reverently teach the Gospel, celebrate the sacraments, and discharge the office of priesthood. They then came down the center aisle and lay prostrate on the floor, in a gesture of humility, while all knelt and prayed for the intercession of the saints (from the time of Christ to the present) to pray for the five men.
During the laying-on of hands, Bishop Barres placed his hands on the head of each candidate, signifying that the power of priesthood is conferred by the bishop, continuing the unbroken line from the time of Christ and the apostles. All of the priests who were present were invited to do the same, as a sign of welcome, and of their communion in the one priesthood of Christ.
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Then, with hands extended over each of the men, Bishop Barres said the Prayer of Ordination. Ordination to the Catholic priesthood changes the nature of each man – they are not made perfect, but they are “ontologically” and permanently changed in a way that will allow Christ to become real through the sacramental words and actions performed through them. The Church sees this change as a great mystery, but one that is critical to the priestly vocation. Priesthood is not just a job they will do or a set of duties they will perform – from that moment on, it is a part of who they are.
After they were ordained, the five men were vested with the stole and chasuble, the symbols of their priestly office, by priests who made a difference in their lives. The bishop then anointed each man’s hands with Holy Chrism oil.
In a touching moment, the parents of each of the men brought forward the gifts of bread and wine at the offertory.
After they concelebrated the Eucharist for the first time with Bishop Barres and all priests present, the newly ordained distributed Communion to the faithful. Bishop Barres then addressed the congregation before the dismissal. He thanked all for attending, and included special thanks to the family members and those who supported and nurtured the vocations of the five men ordained. Bishop Barres spoke of the importance of the Catholic priest to family life and exhorted the men to build up and support the families they would be serving in parishes on Long Island. The bishop then announced the new priests’ first parish assignments:
Father Michael Bissex will be serving at St. Patrick Parish in Huntington.
Father Liam McDonald will be serving at Holy Family Parish in Hicksville.
Father Michael Plona will be serving at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Center Moriches.
Father Christopher Sullivan will be serving at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Floral Park.
Father John Wachowicz will be serving at St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays.