ROCHESTER — Father Edison Tayag’s first 24 hours as a priest were a model of how to hit the ground running.
Moments after being ordained by Bishop Matthew H. Clark on June 28, Father Tayag was greeted by a long line of people snapping photographs and extending hugs and handshakes. Many well-wishers, including his fellow priests, requested and received personal blessings from him. Later that day Father Tayag celebrated his first Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Churchville, and the next morning he was due in the Southern Tier to preside over yet another liturgy at St. Mary of the Lake Church in Watkins Glen.
“I am very much at peace. I am happy the moment I’ve waited five years for has finally arrived,” Father Tayag said during a post-ordination reception in the narthex of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Father Tayag is the first Filipino to be ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Rochester. He first came to this area in 1999, pursuing a career as a physical therapist. A key step on his path to the priesthood occurred at St. Vincent de Paul, where a fellow parishioner, Florence Hart, was the first person to ask if he’d ever thought of becoming a priest. Hart was in attendance at the June 28 ordination — as was Charlotte Bruney, pastoral administrator of the Churchville parish, who acknowledged that she felt like “a proud mother.”
“That means the world to us, to see one of ‘us’ ordained,” Bruney said. “I’m elated. I feel like we’re a part of the story for him, and it’s a privilege to be part of it.”
Also on hand at the cathedral were many other people from Father Tayag’s past, representing St. Mary of the Lake in Watkins Glen, where he was later a parishioner; and St. Mary in Rochester, Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece and St. Mary in Auburn, where he served during formation.
Fifteen young men participating in “24 Hours with the Lord” — the same mini-retreat that Father Tayag credits with providing his first strong call to the priesthood in 2001 — also attended the ordination. Prior to the Mass, the “24 Hours with the Lord” participants stayed overnight at Irondequoit’s St. Margaret Mary Parish, enjoying visits by Bishop Clark as well as Father Tayag on his last full day as a transitional deacon.
The joyful ordination liturgy featured music by the Diocesan Festival Choir as well as the public debut of Sacred Heart’s new organ. Highlights from the rite of ordination were Bishop Clark’s proclamation, “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we choose Edison, our brother, for the order of priesthood,” followed by thunderous applause from the congregation; and the imposition of hands on Father Tayag — first by Bishop Clark and then, one by one, by some 44 priests.
Father Tayag described the experience of prostrating himself during the liturgy as “a powerful minute,” noting that as he lay face first on the cathedral floor before Bishop Clark, he reflected on the “tremendous responsibility” that he was assuming.
“There are fears, but tremendous hope to balance that,” said Father Tayag, 34, who will serve this summer at St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua and then return to Rome to complete his final year of major seminary at Pontifical North American College.
In his homily, Bishop Clark used Father Tayag’s ordination as an example of how we’re all called by God.
“No matter what our vocation is, God has a plan for every man, woman, boy and girl,” Bishop Clark said, adding that the day served as “an inspiration to all of us, to keep at it in our vocational journey.”
The bishop noted that Father Tayag traveled far from his native Philippines en route to becoming a priest, likening his odyssey to the considerable traveling Jesus did in his ministry. Father Tayag also found the travel analogy fitting.
“I started my journey by asking God, ‘God, take over.’ This is the fulfillment of that,” Father Tayag remarked. “God really took over when I asked him to.”