Father Manning, 4 seminarians celebrate ordinations

Bishop Stika ordains 41st priest and transitional deacons in June for Diocese of Knoxville

CELEBRATING THE PRIESTHOOD Bishop Richard F. Stika and priests from across the diocese celebrate at the altar with Father Christopher Manning during the ordination Mass for Father Manning on June 1 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Father Manning became the 41st priest ordained in the Diocese of Knoxville. Photo by Dan McWilliams

CELEBRATING THE PRIESTHOOD Bishop Richard F. Stika and priests from across the diocese celebrate at the altar with Father Christopher Manning during the ordination Mass for Father Manning on June 1 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Father Manning became the 41st priest ordained in the Diocese of Knoxville. Photo by Dan McWilliams

Father Christopher Manning called it a “very humbling experience” as he became the 41st priest ordained for service in the Diocese of Knoxville on June 1.

Father Manning’s Mass, the sixth priestly ordination for Bishop Richard F. Stika, took place at the ordinand’s home church, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and was the first of two June ordination Masses held for five young seminarians taking key steps to enter the priesthood.

“I’ve spent six years in seminary preparing for this day and many years ahead of that in prayer and discernment of God’s calling, both before and after entering the seminary,” Father Manning said. “So to have the experience of today with Bishop Stika ordaining me to be a priest of Jesus Christ for the Diocese of Knoxville to serve the good people in East Tennessee is a true joy and very humbling experience.”

Bishop Stika was joined at the Mass by concelebrants Father David Boettner, vicar general and cathedral rector; Monsignor Xavier Mankel, vicar general; Monsignor Bob Hofstetter, dean of the Five Rivers Deanery; and Monsignor Pat Garrity, vicar for priests and dean of the Cumberland Mountain Deanery. Cardinal Justin Rigali also attended—on the feast day of St. Justin—along with about 30 additional priests and 16 deacons. Deacon Sean Smith and Deacon Arthur Torres Barona assisted at Mass, and diocesan seminarians served at the altar.

The bishop said “today in this cathedral of Sacred Heart, in this cathedral of Knoxville, we again celebrate this moment of grace when a man responds to the call of Christ, just as Pope Francis did, to come and to follow in a particular ministry of the Church. You too, Christopher, have been chosen by the Lord himself through the call of the Church to act in his name as you celebrate the sacraments and proclaim the Word. You have been called to be Christ-bearer in East Tennessee.”

Bishop Stika mentioned that he also dwelt on the meaning of Christopher—“Christ-bearer”—when Father Manning was ordained a deacon.

“You may all remember last year when I thanked the parents of Christopher for the name that they gave him, Christ-bearer. So I do the same again today. I also thank you for the gift of his life, not only his name but his life—in a particular way the life he now gives to the people of God in the Catholic Church.”

Keeping in mind that Father Manning would be another “Christ in our midst,” Bishop Stika said, “I offer congratulations to so many of my brother deacons and priests who are celebrating their anniversaries of ordination to the diaconate and to the priesthood, for as we begin to prepare this celebration of our silver jubilee as a diocese, it is obvious that this growing and vibrant church of East Tennessee would not be so blessed without your commitment.”

The bishop noted that much of the direction for a priest’s life and ministry comes from the ordination ritual itself.

“In a few moments, I will ask Christopher to again make certain commitments as he makes this particular journey in his life of faith and in his life of service to the good people God calls him to serve,” Bishop Stika said. “I will ask him if he is willing to preach the gospel always and teach the faith, being mindful that the word of God and the teachings of the Church are not his, but they belong to the Church. Even more than that, they belong to Jesus Christ.

“I will ask him if he is willing to celebrate faithfully and reverently the mysteries of Christ, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation, so that the people of God might be nourished with the abundant mercy of God.”

And there is the challenge to be a man of prayer, Bishop Stika pointed out.

“For me this question is so closely connected with the promise of celibacy. The Catholic priesthood of the Latin Church invites us to live a life of celibacy, which is so often misunderstood by the people of God and by priests themselves, for we live this celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. It is a moment-to-moment commitment to live a life that’s given to the Church and given to the people of God.”

The bishop said that someone once asked Archbishop John L. May, archbishop of St. Louis from 1980 to 1992, what his understanding was of a priest’s respect and obedience to the bishop.

“His simple answer was, ‘Just do what I tell you,’” Bishop Stika said. “My answer is a little different: let’s together do what He tells us to do. Let’s show mercy and compassion to those who need mercy and compassion, to give ourselves totally for the sake of the kingdom of God, to see Christ present in those we love and even more in those we disagree with, those we would rather not have to deal with at all, to see Christ present in them, to act in the person of Christ and to be another Christ to others.”

The bishop concluded his homily by telling the ordinand to “be a holy priest, be a loving and forgiving priest, be a priest filled with reverence and faithfulness to the teachings of the Church and in the celebrations of the sacraments you will be honored to celebrate.

“Be not afraid to be another Christ, to be a Christ-bearer in our midst, and may you always be courageous enough to actually practice what you preach, for Christopher, this day I say to you, ‘May God, who has begun his good work in you, throughout the rest of your life bring it to fulfillment.’”

Father Manning is the son of James Manning and Dr. Marlyn Leisy of Sacred Heart Parish.

“The ceremony was beautiful, and we were so pleased that there was such a good turnout for people to support Christopher,” said Dr. Leisy. “The other thing to remember is that he is a gift to the Church, and it’s not about him—it’s about Jesus, and we’re just very proud of Christopher, and I think he will make a great priest.”

Father Manning said he enjoyed having his family attend his ordination.

“My family is very important to me. We’re a very close group, so to have them as part of the ordination was very special.”

Three classmates of Father Manning attended his ordination: Father Mark Augustine and Father Matt Bozocskay of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Father Hyland Smith of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill. All were ordained within the previous two weeks before Father Manning’s ordination.

“I also had Father Marty Zielenski [attending the ordination],” Father Manning said. “He’s been my spiritual director for six years and teaches at Mundelein Seminary, and he was able to come down as the official representative of the seminary.”

Father Manning said he is eagerly anticipating his first assignment, to serve as an associate pastor at St. John Neumann in Farragut.

“I am looking forward to serving the whole people of East Tennessee, specifically the good people of St. John Neumann,” he said.