Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne ordained one man to the priesthood and one to the transitional diaconate June 19 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Burlington.

Newly ordained Father Robert Murphy has been assigned to serve as parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish in Barre; Deacon Gregory Caldwell will serve for the summer at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Middlebury then finish his final year of theology studies at St. Meinrad Seminary in Meinrad, Indiana.  He is scheduled to be ordained a priest next year.

Acknowledging the discontinued Covid-19 restrictions that necessitated a “socially distanced” ordination to the transitional diaconate of Father Murphy last year, Bishop Coyne told those gathered — mostly without masks — at the cathedral: “… [W]e have arrived at a place where things can return to ‘normal’ in that our churches can be open at full capacity and without social distancing.  It is wonderful for us to be gathered in such a way here in this cathedral, and we offer thanks to God as we move from the pandemic winter to this ‘spring’ of our faith life here in Vermont.”

In his homily, Bishop Coyne called on Father Murphy and Deacon Caldwell to remain close to Christ in prayer, word and worship. “Out of this priestly closeness to Christ, we then move to be close to our people,” he said. “While the providing of the sacraments by the ordained is at the very heart of our ministry and must take primary place in our lives, we are also called to be pastors and shepherds who know our people and are close to them.”

He continued, “A priest who is close to his people walks among them with the closeness and tenderness of a good shepherd; in shepherding them, he goes at times before them, the times remains in their midst and at other times walks behind them. Not only do people greatly appreciate such a priest; even more, they feel that there is something special about him: something they only feel in the presence of Jesus.  That is why discerning our closeness to them is not simply one more thing to do. In it, we either make Jesus present in the life of humanity or let him remain on the level of ideas.”

The bishop called upon the new priest and deacon to be close to their people, visit their homes, go to town events and leave their rectories as much as possible to be with their people.

“Robert and Greg, as ordained ministers of the Church hold on to … hope, be bearers of … hope in your closeness to others, ‘not to be served, but to serve,’” the bishop said. “And may you be shining lights of that faith carrying that light in your words and deeds as holy servants of God.”

During the Rite of Ordination, the new deacon was vested in the stole and dalmatic; the new priest was vested in a stole and chasuble.

The bishop handed on the Book of the Gospels to Deacon Caldwell, signifying the responsibility of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel in the liturgy and to preach the faith of the Church in word and deed.

Through the Laying on of Hands and the Prayer of Ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the priestly office was conferred on Father Murphy. The other priests present at the Mass also lay hands on him to signify incorporation into the priesthood.

The bishop anointed the new priest’s hands with sacred chrism, saying, “The Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, guard you and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God.”

After the conclusion of the nearly 2-hour Mass, Father Murphy blessed people who lined up for his blessing in front of the cathedral tabernacle.

His mother, Kathy Murphy of St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington, commented, “I feel incredibly blessed and excited to share Father Robert with the Catholic community in Vermont. … He is so happy, he is almost floating!”

—The Vocations Office of the Diocese of Burlington is supported by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

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