Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained two men to the priesthood and one to the transitional diaconate at a special Mass June 18 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
The celebration was part of the diocesan commemoration of the Year of Mercy and its Jubilee for Priests and Seminarians.
During the more-than-2-hour Mass, the bishop ordained Fathers Curtis Miller and Matthew Rensch and Deacon Joseph Sanderson.
"These three men – Joseph as a transitional deacon and Curtis and Matthew as priests – have been chosen by God through his holy Church to go forth, appointed and anointed through the sacrament of Holy Orders to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the bearer of salvation to [the] entirety of creation," the bishop said in his homily. "You are called forth from the community to serve that same community and the wider Church as servants of the Church. What an honor and what a responsibility."
He told the men that they were taking on an awesome responsibility and he encouraged them and the members of the congregation that filled the co-cathedral: "In all Christian vocations – marriage, the single life, parenthood, widowhood, consecrated and religious life – if we do not place ourselves in God's hands and rely on his mercy and love, we shall fail. But when we do [fail], he shall lift us up on eagle's wings."
Bishop Coyne emphasized that all things are possible with God. "When we rely on God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – when we say 'it is not about me' but about him and his people, then our lives – but most especially the life of deacon or priest – are built on a solid foundation," he said. "This foundation is built of the bricks of daily prayer, especially intercessory prayer for the needs of others, the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading of Scripture and the celebration of the sacraments, the font and summit of which is the Eucharist, all of this being centered on Christ, relying on him who alone is our rock and our fortress."
The Rite of Ordination included a Litany of Supplication in which the Church invokes the intercession of the saints and martyrs in heaven to intercede for the candidates and the entire pilgrim Church on earth, asking for God to pour forth his grace and mercy. During the litany, the candidates lay prostrate at the foot of the steps in front of the altar.
The bishop then placed his hands on the head of each candidate. Through this Laying on of Hands by the bishop and the prayer of ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the diaconal office was conferred on Deacon Sanderson and the gift of the Holy Spirit for the priestly office was conferred on Fathers Miller and Rensch.
Deacon Sanderson received the diaconal stole and dalmatic, signs of the office of deacon, and Fathers Miller and Rensch received the stole and chasuble, signs of the office of the ministerial priesthood.
In the Handing on of the Book of the Gospels, Deacon Sanderson knelt in front of the bishop who prayed, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach."
The bishop anointed the new priests' hands with sacred chrism and later placed in their hands the bread and wine – on a paten and in a chalice, respectively – pointing to their duty of presiding at the Celebration of the Eucharist and of following Christ crucified.
Father Miller was born in St. Johnsbury, the son of Edward and Judy Miller.
"We're ecstatic," Mr. Miller said, adding that his son will be a "great priest because he's a great person."
Father Miller's first priestly assignment will be as parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville and Danville.
When he was young, the family moved to Colchester where he grew up and attended public schools and Our Lady of Grace Church.
He heard the call to priesthood when he was in high school on a retreat with the opportunity to spend time with the Lord in prayer, especially in Eucharistic adoration. He said yes to the call because he believes it is what God is asking him to do and trusts that God is leading him on the path on which he can best serve God and the Church and be truly fulfilled.
Father Rensch was born in Binghamton, N.Y., the son of William and Margaret Rensch.
"This is the proudest day in my life," Mrs. Rensch said before the Mass. "It's so joyful. I'm so grateful."
The Rensch family moved to Vermont when he was five; his home parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston.
His call to priesthood was influenced by the close relationship of his family to their parish and the former pastor, Father Donald Ravey, and attending daily Mass. "Another key moment was reading C.S. Lewis' 'Mere Christianity' in high school; he was a true witness of Christ to me," Father Rensch has said. "Then in college the witness of the professors and the continued spiritual life helped to clarify the call."
He has been appointed temporary parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish in Barre.
Deacon Sanderson, born in Middlebury, is the son of John and Jennifer Sanderson of Conversion of St. Paul Church in Orwell.
"I feel blessed," Mrs. Sanderson said after the ordination, adding that she thinks what her son is doing in becoming a priest is "beautiful."
Pope Francis inspires Deacon Sanderson to get out of his comfort zone and to seek out those who are suffering, lost or estranged from Christ and his Church in any way. "I look to the example of the pope and pray for the courage to take up this task," he said.
This summer he will be assigned to parish work in Swanton and Highgate Center.
Article written by Cori Fugere Urban Vermont Catholic staff writer.