ROME — With a big smile across his face, 30-year-old seminarian James Muscatella processed into a packed St. Peter’s Basilica Sept. 28 as he embarked on his next step toward becoming a priest.
A seminarian of the Diocese of Rochester, he was among 18 men ordained to the transitional diaconate that day. The newly ordained deacons, representing 14 U.S. dioceses and with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, are studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City ordained the 18 men and was principal celebrant and homilist for the liturgy. Three U.S. cardinals — Cardinals Raymond L. Burke, retired patron of the Order of Malta; James Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls; and Edwin F. O’Brien, retired grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a former rector of the U.S. seminary in Rome — concelebrated the Mass along with four bishops and several priests. Among the priests were Fathers Aaron Kelly, Roman Caly, Joseph Martuscello and Kevin McKenna from the Rochester Diocese.
After the Gospel reading, each diaconal candidate presented himself to Archbishop Coakley, who confirmed the candidates’ worthiness, prompting applause from family, friends and fellow seminarians gathered. In his homily, Archbishop Coakley told the men that “it is not enough to be good churchmen, you must be disciples.”
“Your life and ministry must be deeply rooted in an intimate friendship with Jesus Christ,” he continued. “Be prepared for sacrifice, be prepared for opposition and indeed, at times, persecution.”
He urged the ordinands to look to such models as Blessed Stanley Rother, Blessed Michael McGivney and Servant of God Emil Kapaun, who all were diocesan priests “whose lives and witness offer a whole alternative to the conventional and planned aspirations of a faithless secular world.”
“This is an awesome time to be undertaking ordained ministry in the Catholic Church,” he added. “This is an awesome time to be ordained as transitional deacons and, God willing, in some months to be ordained as priests.”
Following the homily, the ordinands knelt before Archbishop Coakley to make their promises of obedience before prostrating themselves below the sculpture of the chair of St. Peter, sculpted by the Baroque Italian master Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The two-hour liturgy also included such ancient diaconal ordination rites as the laying on of hands, in which Deacon Muscatella knelt before Archbishop Coakley, who laid his hands atop his head and called the Holy Spirit upon him. Investiture of stole and dalmatic was by Father John Bilenki of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“As I was being vested by Father John, I thought about how I have been given a new role and ministry in the church, by a grace from God in the ordination,” Deacon Muscatella wrote in a message to the Catholic Courier following his ordination. “God has used the work of so many good people, cooperating with him to prepare me for this step, and surely will continue to use the work of good people to prepare me for my life as his priest.”
Deacon Muscatella will preach his first Mass at the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome Sept. 29. He is scheduled to be ordained a diocesan priest at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral in the early summer of 2024.
Until then, Deacon Muscatella will continue his studies at the North American College before returning home at the end of June 2024.
“It is a wonderful walk I have taken,” Deacon Muscatella told the Catholic Courier in August. “I just couldn’t be happier.”
Contains reporting by Justin McLellan of Catholic News Service.Tags: Holy Orders, Monroe County West