Dustin Collins, calling ordination a blessing, assigned to St. Mary in Oak Ridge
The diocese’s newest priest called his ordination “a very exciting blessing for me in my life after eight years of being a seminarian.”
“It’s a blessing to be ordained a priest of God, a priest of the Church, and to have the opportunity to serve the people of the diocese as a priest,” said Father Dustin Collins. “It’s truly an honor.”
Father Collins became the 40th priest ordained for the Diocese of Knoxville on June 2 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Bishop Richard F. Stika presided. Concelebrants included cathedral rector Father David Boettner, vicar general Monsignor Xavier Mankel, Father Samuel Russell, OSB, of Conception Seminary College, and Father Jonathan Fassero, OSB, of St. Meinrad Seminary. Also present in the sanctuary was Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, who lives in retirement in the diocese.
Others concelebrating were the diocese’s director of vocations, Father Michael Cummins, and assistant director of vocations, Father David Carter. Deacon Dean Burry and Deacon Mike Gouge assisted.
About 30 priests concelebrated overall. Ten of the diocese’s seminarians served during the Mass. Also attending were eight deacons and about 15 women religious.
A native of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville, Father Collins is the fifth priest ordained by Bishop Stika. He is the son of Danny and Susan Collins of Greeneville.
The bishop announced during the Mass that Father Collins’ first assignment is to serve as an associate pastor at St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge.
“Dustin, when you go there,” Bishop Stika said, “be a good priest, be a holy priest, be a faithful priest, but especially be a loving priest, and I can guarantee you, God willing … that if you keep those ingredients together with the gift of prayer, you’ll be a good and faithful servant to our Lord Jesus and make us all proud.”
Father Collins celebrated his first Mass as a new priest June 3 at Notre Dame Church.
In his homily at the ordination Mass, Bishop Stika said that “through the ordination rite this day, the reality of apostolic succession is made present.”
“It’s visible and active, reminding us today that our unity has always been and shall ever be the person of Jesus Christ.”
The bishop said he prayed for the ordinand to “cultivate a life of holiness daily.”
Part of the ordination rite sees the ordinand place his hands in those of the bishop.
“Dustin, as you soon approach me to place your hands in mine and to make a promise of obedience to me and to my successors, understand it is the hand of Christ embracing you, and in that embrace of obedience is his promise of fidelity to you for the rest of your life,” Bishop Stika said.
“I pray that you live your life of priesthood always in the hope of this fidelity of Christ, and no matter what he would ask of you through your Church and your bishop in the coming years, he will give you the grace to fulfill. Trust always in the grace of holy orders,” the bishop continued.
Priestly fraternity “in this expansive diocese covering so much territory is of vital importance,” the bishop said to Father Collins. “Make every effort in your life as a priest to always be there for your brothers.”
One of the first duties of a bishop is “to love his priests,” Bishop Stika said.
“I pray that you recognize in this love the very love of Christ himself. I also pray that you would be a genuine distributor of this love to the people you are called to serve as a person who is a co-worker with me in Christ.”
The bishop quoted St. John the Baptist in saying, “He must increase; I must decrease.”
“With each gift of yourself of priestly service, you humbly diminish yourself,” Bishop Stika told Father Collins. “We pray that the Lord and the love of Jesus will fill you greater in those moments when you come into that situation where you see yourself less and less, and more and more as a priest of Jesus Christ.
“It’s my prayer as your friend, as your bishop, as a brother, that you may always grow closer and closer to the Lord and that you might live your priesthood for that practical love and for his people.”
The bishop said the prayer during the fractioning rite of the Mass, when the host is broken, “has come to mean very much to me in my 27 years of priesthood as I realized how much I rely upon the grace of God himself to carry out this ministry of priesthood.
“The prayer is simply this, ‘Lord, keep me faithful to your teaching, and never let me be parted from you.’ Dustin, realize how much you, too, rely upon the grace of God.”
Bishop Stika reminded the new priest “to be faithful to your promise to pray.
“When you pray the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, at the appropriate hours of the day, realize that you pray in and with and for the Church, the people you are called to serve.”
A pair of “very important individuals will always be there in moments of challenge to help you bear the burdens of the cross,” the bishop said.
“One is the Blessed Mother, and the other is a little bit harder to contain and control and understand: the Holy Spirit.”
Father Collins was ordained before an audience that included his family and parishioners of Notre Dame.
“There was a very good turnout from the people of Notre Dame,” said the new priest, “and that means a lot to me with their being from the parish I grew up in, was baptized in, and was ordained a deacon in.”
Father Collins was vested by Notre Dame pastor Father Jim Harvey.
“He was the priest who encouraged me to enter the seminary eight years ago, so it only seems right to have him vest me,” said Father Collins.
Of his first assignment, Father Collins said he is “looking forward to it a lot.” The Oak Ridge parish is already familiar to him.
“It was my first assignment as a seminarian, so to have the opportunity to be able to go back there again—I know a lot of the parishioners, so I look forward to serving St. Mary’s in Oak Ridge.”
The chalice carried by Father Collins’ mother, Susan Collins, to the altar during Mass was Danny and Susan Collins’ gift to their son. Bishop Stika blessed the chalice before Mass. The stem of the chalice contains the wedding rings of Father Collins’ late grandparents, Alphonse and Antoinette Zdaniewicz, Mrs. Collins’ parents.
“Dustin just found out [about the rings] the night before ordination,” said Mrs. Collins. “It was very special to him to have his grandparents’ rings on his chalice. They played a big part in his early life. Dustin’s first Mass of thanksgiving was for my parents’ intention.”
For a slide show of Father Collins’ ordination, visit dioknox.org/FrDustinCollins.