Ordination of Rev. John Magner to the Priesthood
in St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
Sunday, 25th June, 2017
by Bishop William Crean
Bishop of Cloyne
A vocation to a particular way of life is always a unique personal journey of response, discernment and commitment. While we tend to associate vocation with priesthood and religious life its dynamic is similar for those who marry or choose to remain single.
What each vocation journey shares is a personal search that places ones trust in a God given call. This “call” can take many forms – from the example of a mentor or guide, the aptitude one senses you possess, the surprise of an extraordinary experience that serves as a personal revelation of new insight and understanding or it may be a moment in prayer where an assurance and consolation moves you with confidence to take the next step. All this seeking and searching is the necessary work of discernment or arriving in so far as we can a right and good decision for the next stage of life’s journey.
My friends, we gather with John to-day to celebrate with him as he takes the next step on his life journey – that of ordination to the Priesthood and the priestly ministry he commits himself to – namely to share in the work of Christ in the presbyterate of the Diocese of Cloyne. To-day is one of great joy for us all and especially for John.
John, your vocation to Priesthood has followed an unusual path but is no less joyful. Your call was first responded to in the 1960’s after some time in St. Patrick’s College, Carlow you discerned that the Priesthood was not for you at that time. So, you chose another path which led to your meeting and marrying your late beautiful wife Maria. You were blessed with your daughters Gemma and Emily whose lovely voices will contribute to our liturgy to-day. We thank them in anticipation. Sadly, Maria died too young in 2005 having grieved her great loss your quest was reawakened and you sought to be considered for ministry as a Priest. The Diocese said “Yes” and as they say the rest is history.
Over these past years you have immersed yourself in all that preparation for ordination to the Priesthood required. It meant mixing and living with young fellas. You did so with grace and energy thereby winning their respect and support. Embracing enthusiastically, as you did, all the study reflected your wish and desire to prepare well for the future.
Your sense of your future ministry is well reflected in the Readings you have chosen for to-day’s celebration. Once one speaks with a prophetic voice, (Jer. 20:10-13) you can expect challenge and testing. That’s when one’s faith in the Lord who has called you to be this voice will be your source of strength and assurance. That assurance in faith is a great antidote to fear. “Do not be afraid” (Mt. 10) Jesus says not once but twice in to-day’s Gospel. Fear/terror is the favourite instrument of the aggressor for we know fear paralyses the human spirit.
“So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven” (Mt. 10:33).
The reason one takes a stand on some issue is because you care and it matters. The care and concern one shows in the Priesthood is conveyed in the way we treat people as much by what we say. “Do not be a dictator” Peter advises (2nd Reading) “but be an example for others to follow”. To lead well and be a good shepherd is a delicate balance of giving direction on one level and persuading / listening on the other.
John, from your life and work experience you are well equipped for this task.
Instruction of the Candidate (from the Roman Pontifical – Rite of Ordination)
He then addresses the candidate:
John, you are now to be advanced to the order of the presbyterate. You must apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher. Share with all mankind the work of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach.
Let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the people of God. Let the example of your life attract the followers of Christ, so that by work and action you may build up the house which is God’s Church.
In the same way you must carry out your mission of sanctifying in the power of Christ. Your ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it with Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through your hands. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ.
When you baptise, you will bring men and women into the people of God. In the sacrament of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church. With holy oil you will relieve and console the sick. You will celebrate the liturgy and offer thanks and praise to God throughout the day, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world. Remember that you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God. Do your part in the work of Christ the Priest with genuine joy and love, and attend to the concerns of Christ before your own.
Finally, conscious of sharing in the work of Christ, the Head and Shepherd of the Church, and united with the bishop and subject to him seek to bring the faithful together into a unified family and to lead them effectively, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and to seek out and rescue those who are lost.
All, naturally wonder about the value and impact of our life – consider these lines from the poet H. W. Longfellow.
MEDITATION FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
(Purpose of Life)
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”