The Archdiocese of Birmingham is celebrating the Ordination of three new Priests – Fr Chris Yule, Fr Tomas Zuna and Fr Simon Baker. The Ordinations took place at St Chad’s Cathedral. The chief celebrant, Archbishop Bernard Longley, in his welcoming address, thanked their parents “for the gift of three new priests to serve the Church.”
Archbishop Longley reflected that when he was installed in Birmingham in December 2009 he knew that the three had just begun their first year of formation at St Alban’s College, Valladolid: ” Living and studying in Valladolid exposed them to the great Spanish traditions of spirituality and especially through St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila to Carmelite spirituality, with its emphasis on contemplative prayer and personal sacrifice that is fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit. Their year in Spain laid fresh foundations for the life of prayer that must always lie at the heart of who we are and what we do as priests. ”
The three new priests are going to serve in Acocks Green and Kings Heath in Birmingham and Banbury in Oxfordshire; Archbishop Longley told them they would be called to recognise the exemplary prayerfulness of their parishioners:
“In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, as you begin to reconcile sinners to God and bring them peace of mind and heart through the Sacrament of Penance, learn to love and respect the people you will serve. In the years ahead your parishioners will love and inspire you by their example of prayer and sacrifice. You will see the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives and it will grow through your ministry as priests who are dedicated to love and to serve them.”
Recalling the attack in Nice, the Archbishop said the three were being ordained as ministers of unity and peace to bring Christ Emmanuel into the midst of a troubled world; he called on the congregation to remember the sacrifice of the French Carmelites Sisters of Compiègne who offered their lives to Christ during the persecution of the French Revolution. They were executed at the guillotine in Paris on the 17 July 1794 and they were beatified as martyrs by Pope St Pius X in 1906: “They are surely praying for all those who died or were injured in Nice on Friday and for the peace of Christ to turn all human hearts away from division, discord and violence.”
As the day of ordination approached, the “priests to be” reflected on the journey of faith that led them through their years of training for the priesthood:
The journey to this point has at times seemed long and arduous. There have been many challenges along the way as i I tried to discern with much support and guidance, whether the Lord was calling me to the priesthood. Despite the challenges, I have enjoyed my seminary years. First at the Royal English College, Vallodolid and then at St Mary’s College, Oscott. I have learnt many things in these years, academically, spiritually, and personally. None more so than that moment when I finally realised and accepted that God is calling me to the priesthood. That realisation was a joyous moment as it came when I had nearly left seminary completely.
As the ordination approaches I am excited to being ordained a priest and it is a privilege for me that after it I will be celebrating a Mass of thanksgiving in my home parish in Great Barr. I will then continue my first weeks of priesthood with over a hundred young people of our Archdiocese as we travel on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Poland.
As well as excitement there is also some nerves. I truly believe that the Lord has brought me to this moment in my life, but I still have those times when I question why God would choose me – when there are so many other men out there who would be better than me. I then remind myself of the lives of people like St Peter and many of the saints and realise we don’t need to be perfect, we just need to trust the Lord and know that through Him and the power of His Spirit we will be given all we need to fulfil the vocation to which we have been called.
Moving out of seminar, one chapter of my life is over and another one is about to begin. The previous chapter was of course important. My life in seminary, with all its joys and challenges, has been essential for me and I thank everybody, both the staff and the students, who supported me along the way with their help and friendship. Yet, ultimately, seminary serves a very clear purpose, to help to form a man for the priesthood.
And so, even if there are elements of sadness as I’m moving on, they are overshadowed by the feeling of great excitement and joy. This is what God has called me do and it is the sole reason I made this journey. And of course if God has called me to be a priest, he also made me to be a priest. This is what our faith teaches us — that we’re all created for a purpose and this purpose is to be lived out through our God given vocation. This thought is truly humbling yet it is also a source of great expectation and anticipation.
But, unlike climbing a mountain, when the journey ends with the reaching of the summit, for me the journey is rather about to begin. And so while July 16th — the ordination day — is of course something to look forward to, what’s even more exiting is the prospect of living out my priestly calling, serving and bringing Christ into the lives of the people placed under my care. With that in mind I’m very much looking forward starting in my new parish.
Of course, if there is one thing I’ve learned about myself, it is that I’m far from perfect. As I’m getting closer and closer to the ordination I’m asking myself: “Am I really ready to take this massive leap of faith?” “Will I be good enough?”. With these question, however, comes the realisation that none of us can truly be at the service of God through our own strengths and efforts. It is God who calls us and it’s God who gives us what we need. It is therefore my prayer that I will never loose sight of this simple yet essential truth. Please keep me in your prayers so that I man remain forever faithful to this calling and that I may never forget that with God everything is possible.