Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Touching Heaven

In the middle of the night I lay awake, mind racing through the details of an extraordinarily wonderful weekend, wound up from the joy and beauty of it all.  Six young men had been ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and a wonder like this doesn't happen every day!  How could I possibly sleep when I had so much to thank God for?  It would take a year of sleepless nights, I think, to properly pray all of the gratitude that was welling up within me. Through  my prayerful attendance at these ordinations, I felt as though God had given me an opportunity to reach out and touch heaven.

six new priests:  Fr. Nathan Miniatt, Fr. John Gibson, Fr. Justin Lopina,
Fr. Peter Patrick Kimani, Fr. Jose Mario Nieto Restrepo, Fr. Gideon Buya
Photo courtesy of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary

Ordination weekend began with a beautiful holy hour of intense prayer for the six men to be ordained.  St. Robert's Church in Shorewood was filled with the strains of organ, flute and violin as attendees knelt in adoration of the Lord, begging for blessings upon the priesthood of the men who were about to conform their lives to Christ.

I've been blessed to have attended several ordinations in the past few years, but I've never seen the outpouring of joyful support that Fr. Peter Patrick Kimani from Kenya received from his family and friends who traveled to be with him on his ordination day.  Following the ordination Mass, the above photo was taken, and then each of the six new priests scattered to various parts of the Cathedral to offer their first blessings.   Fr. Peter Patrick was followed by a group of about 20 people who were singing, playing the tambourine and bongo drums and swaying in procession as they followed their new priest to the location of his blessings.  Most of the singing was in Swahili with lots of ululations, but the English I was able to sing along with was "Thank you, Jesus!"  St. John the Evangelist Cathedral was alive with happiness and praise for God!  Later, I was curious about the Kenyan traditions regarding ordinations and so I looked for and found an ordination video online.  What most impressed me in the video was the sight of the Bishop blessing the celebration cake and then feeding it to each of the new priests, much like a bride and groom feed the first piece of wedding cake to each other.  How very fitting that is, since the priest is now married to the Church!  You can watch that video here.

As I stood in line waiting for the blessings of the new priests, I noticed two nuns in habits that I had never seen before and I just had to meet them.  I learned that they were Sister Margaret Mary and Sister Louise Marie, Sisters of Saint Benedict Center Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary  from Still River, Massachusetts.   They were both radiantly beautiful and friendly and it was as though we were old friends even though we had just met.  We spoke about relics and saints and the beauty of several Milwaukee churches, and I look forward to corresponding with them both in the future.  Upon a visit to their website, I learned that their order is committed to keeping the beautiful traditions of our Church alive and to living out their total devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  You can visit their website here to learn more about this beautiful order.

The first Mass for Fr. John Gibson, at St. Hedwig's Church on Milwaukee's East Side, was extraordinarily beautiful, and I cried through nearly the entire Mass.  Fr. Luke Strand, the vocations director for Milwaukee, gave a beautiful homily reminding Fr. John that two of the most important things he will need to remain committed to in his priesthood will be constant prayer and devotion to the Blessed Mother.  At the end of Mass, Fr. John presented his parents with the gifts of his maniturgia and stole.

There is no part of ordination that moves me more than watching the mothers of the new priests present the Archbishop and new priests with the offertory gifts, but then, to see the new priest present his parents with these unique gifts at his first Mass touches me even more deeply.  The maniturgia is the towel that the new priest wipes his hands upon after the Archbishop anoints them with oil.  The tradition is that when his mother passes from this life, she is buried with the towel, and when she reaches heaven, she presents it to God as a sign that she had given Him a priest, and as a result, she will be appointed a special place in heaven.  How lovely!

You may be familiar with Fr. John Gibson as he is the priest dancing the Irish jig in the now-viral video of the dancing deacons at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.  If you haven't seen it yet, or want to watch it again, you can find it here and at the end of this post.

Join me in praising God for six new priests in Milwaukee and please keep Fr. Nathan, Fr. John, Fr. Justin, Fr. Peter Patrick, Fr. Jose Mario and Fr. Gideon in your prayers, for through these men and their priesthood, we all are able to reach out and touch heaven when our time on earth is through!


  1. This was a timely reading of your post, Anne. This morning before mass a young man came over and asked me to pray for him (even as I pray for your son) as he pursues entering a religious order in Chicago. Of all the things I do and all the prayers I say for priests, I have never been to an ordination, nor have I ever thought to seek to do so ---- until I read this wonderful post.

    My eyes (and my heart) will be open to opportunities now, should they arrive. Thank you for taking the time to post your experience; may it one day be mine.

  2. Tom, I do hope you are able to attend an ordination some time. They are the glory of Catholicism on earth. Thanks fo all of the prayers for seminarians and for my son. John is no longer in seminary, he left before he finished his first semester. Seminary is a difficult life and your prayers are badly needed and much appreciated!