ROCHESTER — Where does one begin in rating the spiritual and emotional waves surging through Sacred Heart Cathedral June 6?
There was Father Brian Carpenter, sailing into priestly ministry right after his ordination Mass ended. One by one he blessed family, friends and other well-wishers who waited in a long line to approach and kneel before him, exchanging hugs with many of them.
“Wonderful, absolutely wonderful” is how Father Carpenter described his feelings to the Catholic Courier during a brief pause from bestowing those blessings.
There was the Diocesan Festival Choir, whose voices and instruments — including the cathedral’s magnificent new organ — produced joyful tunes that thundered off the walls.
There were several dozens priests who took turns laying their hands on Father Carpenter’s head during the Mass, solemnly welcoming him as their brother.
There was the sizable congregation, which burst into prolonged applause when Bishop Matthew H. Clark began the ordination rite by presenting Father Carpenter for election.
Yet the morning’s most outward display of emotion came from Bishop Clark himself, who halted and composed himself during that presentation as well as his ensuing homily.
“You are on the first day of a magnificent, lifelong journey,” the bishop told Father Carpenter from the pulpit. On the other hand, he went on to note that four years will pass before the next scheduled priest ordination takes place in this diocese.
“That’s a powerful reality that we all need to face,” Bishop Clark said, imploring those in attendance to pray for priestly vocations and take active roles in identifying men who might make good priests and encouraging them in that direction. With his voice shaking, the bishop also paid tribute to the many priests surrounding him, saying they’ve been exemplary servants even as the priest shortage has continued stretching their resources.
“These men have been extraordinarily generous and faithful in their ministry,” Bishop Clark stated. “I could not be more grateful or proud of them than I am standing here today. … My one concern is that we do not ask more than is humanly possible of them.”
A short time later Father Carpenter prostrated himself and then knelt before Bishop Clark, who laid his hands on his head, officially designating him as the newest priest of the Diocese of Rochester.
Father Carpenter, 33, is an Indiana native who resided in Penfield’s St. Joseph Parish during his teen years and attended McQuaid Jesuit High School. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1998 and entered Becket Hall, the diocesan pre-theology program, in 2004. He recently completed studies at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. Father Carpenter’s first priestly assignment will be at Rochester’s Peace of Christ Parish (St. Ambrose, St. James and St. John the Evangelist).
The ordination had a profound effect on Cory Smith, 31, one of nine men who took part in “24 Hours with the Lord,” an overnight program for men considering the priesthood that has been held annually in conjunction with priest ordinations.
Smith’s group received hearty applause when they stood and were introduced by Bishop Clark during Mass. Smith described Father Carpenter’s ordination as an uplifting event for the Rochester Diocese, which has endured the closing of many schools and churches in recent years along with the decline in priestly numbers.
“Our theology teaches us that after death comes resurrection,” remarked Smith, of Church of the Assumption in Fairport. He added that his overall experience on June 6 was a big inspiration in his personal discernment process.
“I’m looking forward to what could be in my future,” he said.