Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise."- Ordination Weekend Wrapup

This weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to attend the Ordination Masses for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and celebrate with five of the most influential and holiest men that I know, who were ordained to the priesthood. Fathers Christopher Klusman, Kevin Barnekow, Kevin McManaman, Javier Guativa and Hugo Londono I offer my congratulations to you and pray that your priestly ministry is one filled with joy, excitement, and ever increasing love and zeal for God and his continued mission for you all.

Even after ordination, it seemed that the celebration was just beginning. Only a few hours after being ordained, Father Kevin McManaman celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving; his first Mass as a priest. It was such a joy to see him in his beautiful vestments, standing along with his fellow brother priests and celebrating his first Mass in his home parish, Nativity of The Lord Church. Father Kevin frequently helped with the Summer Camps and the Remnant Basketball Camp that my brothers and I attended. He was always so welcoming, so easy to talk to and always seemed ready to serve. It was such an honor to be able to journey with him through each year of the seminary leading up to now and I am so grateful for his friendship. May God continue to bless you as you are now His holy priest, and may he help you to love and serve His people with the same readiness to serve and enthusiasm that you so often showed during our times together.

Sunday was also a special day as Father Christopher Leonard Klusman celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving at our home parish St. Matthias. Before the Mass at 11 o'clock in the morning, Father Christopher held a breakfast at a banquet hall filled with over 350 guests and my family was invited. It was a great honor and privilege to be able to eat with him, pray with him and celebrate with him, this beautiful day in his life. Father Christopher's Mass of Thanksgiving had to be one of the most beautiful Masses I have ever attended. Everything from the music, to the prayers and liturgy, the meeting new people and seeing old friends was absolutely fantastic and I felt blessed beyond words to be a part of it.

Although Father Christopher has many special qualities, one of them that really stands out is hard of hearing. Father Christopher has been deaf from birth but it certainly has not hindered his being able and willing to serve and love others. He always seems to have a big bright smile on his face and that has become his trademark. Father Christopher is one of only five priests who are deaf in the nation. We have a deaf community in our Archdiocese of Milwaukee, a large part of it at my parish St. Matthias. Father Christopher will be working with the Archdiocesan Deaf Community along with St. Romans Catholic Parish in Milwaukee. Please pray for Father Christopher and all those recently ordained that they may serve God to the very best of their abilities as his Holy priests and be filled with the joy and happiness of Christ as they become like Him for the rest of the world. Know of my prayers for all of you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Be Sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit! These words are still ringing in my ears, engraved in my heart; a trace of the chrism is still on my forehead, in my hair and hands. What a wonderful spring break it was, to be able to celebrate the Triduum in a special way by cantoring to thank and praise God, and then be confirmed the next week!

This past Saturday was my Confirmation. My sponsor, Father Matthew Widder, and I were both fired up and excited. This was the day we had both eagerly awaited for 8 months. All candidates and their sponsors began the celebration of Confirmation in the back of church so that we could process in. Auxilary Bishop Richard J. Sklba, the presiding bishop at our Confirmation, tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to Father Matthew, "Is this your sponsor? You couldn't find anyone better?" he joked as he put his arm around me and shook Father's hand saying, "Good to see you Matthew." Father Matthew had just been ordained one year ago.

For me the coolest experience I ever had was being anointed with the sacred chrism. It smelled so wonderful! I chose to keep the name John Paul, my baptismal name, for my confirmation name. I wanted to keep my real name because my birthday was on the same date that Pope John Paul II was elected to the papacy, October 16th. It is for this reason that I was named after him. What made it even more special was that Pope John Paul II's beatification was on the following day. Father Matthew presented me proudly, "Bishop Sklba, I present John Paul!" Bishop Sklba then turned to me with sacred chrism in his hands and lifting them up to my forehead said, "John Paul, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit!" Then he proceeded by taking more chrism and rubbed it in my hair, on my hands, and on Father Matthew's hands. It was such a beautiful sight. He then took my hands into his and said, "Peace be with you." After I responded with, "And also with you," Bishop Sklba looked into my eyes and said quietly, "And best wishes for continued discernment." At this my eyes began to fill up with tears of joy. I thanked the Bishop and then walked back to my pew with Father Matthew and we were both beaming and grinning. It was the happiest time in my life.

After the Mass, my family, Father Matthew, and I all went down into the church basement for a reception and a chance for a picture with Bishop Sklba. When it was my turn for a picture with Bishop, my sponsor and mom and dad joined me. Bishop Sklba put his arm around me again as we smiled for the camera and said, "John Paul, I really enjoyed your letter that you wrote." ( In the Confirmation sessions, one of the assignments we had was to write letters to the presiding bishop). "The priesthood is a wonderful life," he continued. "It is life-giving, fulfilling, and energizing. It is never dull or boring. It is a beautiful life. I'll be pulling for you during your discernment. Know of my prayers." When we were done taking pictures I shook his hand and thanked him for everything he had said. That was definitely a memory that I will never forget. What an honor it is to be told personally by the bishop that he would be praying for me!

The next day my family held a party for me at my house and had invited over 50 guests. I had not seen some of the guests in years, so the fact that my being confirmed had brought family members back was awesome and definitely moving. One of the highlights of that day was the fact that we had invited six priests to my Confirmation and all of them came either to the Mass or to the house for the party. It was cool to be able to sit down and eat lunch and talk with each priest. Each of them have impacted my faith and my views on priesthood and are very special to me.

The whole weekend was the most amazing experience I have ever had and I will never forget it as long as I live. I would like to thank everyone who was holding me close to their heart in prayer as I made my way up to my Confirmation and was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It really means a lot to me how much everyone cares for me and is keeping me in their daily prayers. I really appreciate that. Thank you for all that you do and have a Blessed Easter Season!

Also on the top of the page is my Confirmation picture with my parents, my Sponsor Father Matthew, and Bishop Sklba. It is kind of blurry but I still love it!:) -John