Advice to new Kingston Archdiocese priest
“Try to avoid, like Frank Sinatra said, ‘I did it my way’….no, do it God’s way.”
Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston gave this caution to Deacon Joseph M Lucas as he was ordained priest for the Archdiocese February 19 at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity.
In his homily, the Archbishop reminded the Deacon of the “heavy task” being entrusted to him, to lead faith communities to contemplate the call of God and to build God’s sanctuary on Earth. “Not your kingdom, but God’s Kingdom,” Archbishop Richards emphasised.
He referenced St Benedict who once said, as he addressed other abbots, that the abbot will have to give an account to God and the tribunal of God for any loss found in a community. He will have to answer not only for his own soul, but for the souls of the community members as well.
Commenting on this, Archbishop Richards beseeched the Deacon to allow God to infuse him with the grace of holiness and to allow his life, through his own struggles, commitment, and a life of penitence, to be an inspiration for faithful in responding to the call of God.
“All of us have to contemplate because what Leviticus 19:1 says and Matthew 5:48 says cannot be glossed over by the baptised person and must not be glossed over by the consecrated person, because as consecrated persons we are called to be a light set on a hilltop…. salt of the Earth,” Archbishop Richards said. “And if salt loses it taste, it is good for nothing,” he added.
The Archbishop underscored that any consecrated person must acknowledge that no community belongs to any priest, deacon or bishop.
“It must be in fear and trepidation that if I say my diocese….my parish or my church community. Rather, naming the church community because indeed my brothers and sisters, no community belongs to any bishop, any priest, any deacon….rather, the community belongs to Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop Richards. “We are His agents and we must therefore strive to ensure we are faithful agents,” he said.
To accomplish this, an ascetical life is important. The Archbishop explained that the more faithful acknowledge their own human frailty is the more faithful must turn to an ascetical life for the purification of minds and intentions, so one’s actions can be purified.
He said the ascetical period of Lent calls for Christians to acknowledge their humanity, brokenness, the follies of life and contemplate the steps the Season offers to practise ascetical virtues “so that indeed more and more, like [St] Paul, we can declare it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.”
Archbishop Richards then beseeched Deacon Lucas to “focus” on God’s plan of salvation, and by his ministry, awaken the sensibility in the faith community so that all baptised members will participate in formulating the mission of the Church in this age.
“Indeed this is the charge of those of us responsible for leading our faith communities. We need to wake up. The Church needs to wake up, to awake from slumber, to awake from self-maintenance…”
At the end of the ordination, Fr Lucas thanked all who supported him on the journey to priesthood.
“Your presence in my life and your stories have contributed to what my story is going to be. Thank you for being rocks that sheltered me. Thank you for allowing me to build caves in those rocks. I felt safe,” Fr Lucas said.
He thanked the Diocese of Kitui, Nigeria, his place of birth; the people of Nairobi diocese, where his vocation was “watered”; the Archdiocese of Port of Spain; and the Dioceses of Mandeville, Montego Bay and the Archdiocese of Kingston where he will be serving.
He mentioned a “very special person”, his mother, who took the challenge of travelling for the first time on a plane from Nairobi to be present for his ordination.
Speaking directly to his mother in the pew, Fr Lucas said when he arrived in Jamaica 11 years ago, he was welcomed. He shared there was a time when he wanted to leave the seminary because the life was “rough and tough”. “But the Spirit and the God I serve toughened me and I became even tougher,” he said.
“That day when I was planning to leave, I went home … when I went to the room to sleep, because I was contemplating to leave, I found something beside the bed, and that something was from somebody I love, and that is no other than the Padre Pio rosary. And I say, mommy give me this rosary and the day I will be ordained, I will return it to you and today is the day. It worked miracle and the miracle is here in front of you,” Fr Lucas said.
Fr Lucas acknowledged his uncle, Reverend Peter, who was among the concelebrating clergy, represents his grandfather, who, before he died, wished to have priests in his house.
“And now he has two priests and one nun (Fr Lucas’ sister, Sr Caroline is missioning in Africa).”