ROCHESTER — Joyful ovations swept through Sacred Heart Cathedral June 30 as Bishop Matthew H. Clark ordained Fathers Hoan Q. Dinh and Jeffrey S. Tunnicliff to the diocesan priesthood.
During the 90-minute Mass, members of the congregation gave the beaming new priests several lengthy standing ovations, as well as an ovation for the more than 50 priests who concelebrated the Mass and laid their hands on the two men. Afterwards, dozens of people approached the two new priests, asking for pictures, giving them gifts and congratulating them with hugs.
“I think you know from the reception you received as you were presented that you already enjoy the respect and appreciation of this community, and that will only deepen as the years go by,” Bishop Clark said during the Mass.
Father Dinh, 33, whose first name means “cheerful,” is the first Vietnamese-born priest ordained in the Diocese of Rochester. During the ordination, several hymns were sung in Vietnamese and a reading was proclaimed in that language as well.
Although his mother and siblings were unable to come from Vietnam for the ordination, Father Dinh said that many relatives were able to make it from areas including New York City and Connecticut. He also noted that the celebration also included his godparents, who traveled from Montreal, Canada, for the ceremony.
Many parents in the Vietnamese community suggest to their sons that they consider becoming order priests, he noted. Even so, Father Dinh said he also will try to promote among all communities more vocations to diocesan priesthood.
“I’d love to get together the different communities,” he said.
On July 1, Father Dinh was scheduled to visit the community at St. Joseph Church in Penfield to celebrate his first Mass. He noted that he served his pastoral year at St. Joseph and that parishioners there have given him lots of support as he went through his priestly formation. On July 26 he will begin his first assignment as parochial vicar at St. Rita Parish in Webster.
Father Dinh said that as he was praying and lying prostrate on the floor during the Litany of Saints, thoughts of a priest’s service came into his head.
“The beautiful light of the love of God stayed with me in the moment and put tears in my eyes,” he said.
During the ordination, Father Tunnicliff said that he, too, experienced thoughts of serving people.
He said he could feel the Holy Spirit moving as he prostrated himself on the cathedral floor and listened to the names of various Catholic saints being sung during the Litany of Saints. As he listened to the litany, he said he knew he was being ordained to serve all Catholics, not just those present at the ordination or those at St. Mary Southside Parish in Elmira, where he will begin his first assignment as parochial vicar July 14.
“As a Catholic church we are a much bigger church than just the people who are here today,” he remarked.
He said he went into the liturgy “very charged” from having greeted many friends and family members beforehand, but listening to his friend Deacon Daniel Pavlina of Schuyler Catholic Community helped him settle down and really experience the liturgy.
A native of Horseheads, Father Tunnicliff, 37, considers St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Watkins Glen — which is part of Schuyler Catholic Community — his home parish, and he planned to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving there July 1. He also planned to celebrate the 9:30 a.m. Mass July 8 at Fairport’s Church of the Assumption, where he served his pastoral year.
Father Tunnicliff, who was formerly a civil engineer, noted that his road to ordination was a long one. The newly ordained priest said he enjoyed learning about his faith during his formation and is looking forward to sharing his knowledge with others.
“I feel like it’s really for me come to completion,” he said. “It’s been a long process getting there, and I really feel everything’s coming to fruit, all my efforts and all the prayers and support of the people along the way.”
At the end of the ordination, Bishop Clark acknowledged Deacon Edison Tayag, who served as one of two deacons for the ordination.
“Next year, Lord willing, we’ll ordain this man a priest,” Bishop Clark said.