With words of encouragement and a few more on what to expect, Bishop Richard F. Stika ordained four new priests into the Diocese of Knoxville on June 27.
Jesus Guerrero-Rodriguez, Michael Hendershott, Scott Russell and Ray Powell all received their Holy Orders during the Rite of Ordination and Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“We have four new priests. Last year we had four new priests and the year before that we had one. It’s quite an accomplishment for a diocese our size,” Bishop Stika said in remarks near the end of Mass.
More than 50 priests concelebrated the Ordination Mass and nearly 20 deacons from the Diocese of Knoxville were in attendance.
His Eminence, Cardinal Justin Rigali was in choir.
The Most Rev. James Vann Johnston, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., was a concelebrant. Bishop Johnston was a priest and chancellor in the Diocese of Knoxville and recently celebrated his 25th Silver Jubilee anniversary. He was the second priest ordained in the Diocese of Knoxville, with the ordination Mass held in 1990 at Holy Ghost Church.
In his homily, Bishop Stika offered the newly ordained priests advice as they take the next step in their service to the Catholic Church.
“You will be an instrument of our Lord Jesus. You will be an instrument of God,” Bishop Stika said.
“When a person seeks reconciliation, through all the mud in life, through all the confusion, through all the unknown, as they try to respond to Jesus, but sometimes in an imperfect way, they will come to you for guidance, assurances, and nurturing of faith. When you say the Prayer of Absolution, don’t do it in a hurry—for you are an instrument of Jesus in a world that needs reconciliation,” he said.
All four newly ordained priests had family in attendance.
Father Guerrero-Rodriguez is originally from Mexico, but has lived in Philadelphia, Tenn. His home parish is St. Thomas the Apostle in Lenoir City. He studied for the priesthood at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana. He will be assigned to St. Mary Church in Johnson City.
Father Hendershott is from Farragut. His home parish is St. John Neumann. He studied for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa. and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. After returning to Rome to complete some additional studies, he will be assigned to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville.
Father Russell is originally from Signal Mountain. His home parish is St. Bridget in Dayton. He will be assigned to Notre Dame High School and the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga.
Father Powell is from Apison and his home parish is St. Stephen in Chattanooga. He studied for the priesthood at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Wisconsin. He will be assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga.
All four priests gave their first blessings to their parents. Bishop Stika received their second blessing.
Bishop Stika reminded the new diocesan priests that their education isn’t over. In many ways, it is just beginning.
“When people graduate, they think it’s all over with. But in the secular world, I think people will tell you, that’s where their education just begins. It’s like sometimes in the business world they say, forget everything you learned in college, this is reality guys. When I send you out into the mud of this world, this is reality guys. You’ve got all the tools. You’ve got all the formation. You’ve got experience. When you celebrate the Eucharist, when you commemorate that moment in which the Eucharist Prayer says ‘Jesus took the bread and in His holy and venerable hands’, remember it is your hands attain that which will be given to others as their nourishment.”
The Bishop told them that priestly formation goes on and on, so that they, as priests, can truly be an instrument of the Church.