Ordination Mass held June 4 at Sacred Heart Cathedral
Father Adam Royal may not have realized it, but he was part of God’s plan even in the days before he joined the Catholic Church, Bishop Richard F. Stika said at the convert’s priestly ordination Mass.
“You’ve been part of that plan,” the bishop said. “You might not have known it when you weren’t a
Catholic, or when you were growing up or going to school at Carnegie Mellon.”
In a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 4, Father Royal became the 51st priest ordained for the Diocese of Knoxville, and the 16th ordained by Bishop Stika.
“What a great and special moment it is, not only for Adam and for his family, but for the Church of Knoxville,” the bishop said in his opening remarks.
More than 35 priests concelebrated the Mass, including Father David Boettner, the cathedral rector; Father Harry Hagan, OSB, associate professor of Scripture at St. Meinrad School of Theology; and three diocesan deans — Monsignor Patrick Garrity, Father Ronald Franco, CSP, and Father Peter Iorio.
Before the homily, then-Deacon Royal was called forward by diocesan Chancellor Deacon Sean Smith. Father Joe Reed, diocesan director of vocations, testified that “(Deacon Royal) has been found worthy” of ordination.
“In a few moments, after some very beautiful traditions, in simplicity, I’ll lay my hands on your head and pray for the Holy Spirit,” the bishop told the ordinand as he began his homily. “Then you’ll be a priest of Jesus Christ forever.”
Bishop Stika referenced a “servant of God” in the diocese who was ordained a priest exactly 67 years before Father Royal, on June 4, 1949: former military chaplain MonsignorPhilip Thoni.
“Monsignor Philip Thoni, who was called home to God just a year ago or so, is a true martyr in so many different ways because he had to put up with all of us,” the bishop said.
“But he was a great priest who served his nation as a chaplain for so many years, even called back to active duty in his 70s; a great pastor, a great priest, a Southern gentleman, and a man of God who continued to serve as a priest of this diocese, as he did prior in the Diocese of Nashville, until his 90s. He never gave up.
“So my prayer for all of us, as sisters and brothers united in Jesus Christ, is that we might once again look into our hearts and renew that dedication of never giving up as a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Stika noted Father Royal’s first assignment, in which he will serve as an associate pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Chattanooga.
“You will be invited by the people of God to come to participate in their lives, situations in which you, too, [like Jesus] will be invited to teach, to heal, and to preach,” he said.
The bishop asked, “What makes a difference in a successful priest and a nonsuccessful priest?”
“There’s no such thing,” he answered. “You cannot be a successful priest. All you can be is a priest. If you approach that authentically, then you’ll never worry about the titles or all the praise you might receive.
“To be a simple priest of Jesus Christ is enough. And priesthood might take you to where [Pope] Francis is, or it might take you to a small, little town in East Tennessee. Whether it’s a large audience or a small audience, whether it’s a beautiful church or a simple church, when you look upon the altar and you see that chalice and that paten of bread and wine, you’ll see God, God present to his people.”
Bishop Stika told Father Royal to “avoid the Eves of the world.”
“You can have an apple, but fight the temptations of being on a pedestal, fight the temptations of being a person who is the center of attention…” he said. “Pace yourself, because to know Jesus is to know that he invites you to be a priest of Jesus Christ every minute of every day, not just on a Sunday, or a holy day, or at a wedding or at a funeral, but in those moments of privacy and in those moments of public life, and if you can do that, you’ll be a true priest of Jesus Christ in the order of Melchizedek.”
After the homily, the bishop received several promises from the elect, including his “resolve to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith,” and his “resolve to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest.”
In his closing remarks, Bishop Stika reminded the faithful that “the seminary always begins in the family,” even a non-Catholic family, as Father Royal’s family once was.
“Even though it might not have been a Catholic seminary in the beginning, look how it turned out,” the bishop said.
At the end of Mass, Father Royal gave his first blessing to his mother, Sandra, and his second blessing to Bishop Stika.
“Give her a hug,” the bishop instructed Father Royal after he gave a blessing to his mother, as applause followed.
After Mass, Father Royal talked of his long journey to the priesthood.
“It was especially long for me, because I wasn’t raised Catholic, so I had to be received into the Church first when I was a freshman in college,” he said. “I started having an inkling that maybe I was called to the priesthood, but I also thought it was probably just the zeal of conversion. I kind of put it on the back burner for a while, but, as the years went on, I still sensed that call. Eventually, I approached the diocese, and they accepted me.”
Father Royal grew up in Albertville, Ala., and studied at St. Meinrad for six years after receiving his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon.
“It’s a long time, given that I already had a college degree and everything,” he said.
Father Royal’s mother was one of the gift bearers at Mass, along with two of the new priest’s younger cousins, Kirsten and Noah Humble.
“My mom is also a convert. She was received into the Church one year after me,” Father Royal said.
Father Royal is looking forward to his first assignment at OLPH.
“It is a growing parish. It’s a big parish,” he said. “It’s a parish I’ve been to several times for Mass. I’m really excited about it. It’s in Chattanooga, so it’s an area I know, and some of the people I know already.”
Father Royal’s first Mass was June 5 in his home parish of St. Stephen in Chattanooga.
Was he looking forward to the first liturgy?
“Absolutely,” he said.
St. Stephen’s pastor, Father Manuel Pérez, vested Father Royal at his ordination Mass.
“He’s my pastor now,” Father Royal said. “My previous pastor, Father Gilbert [Diaz], vested me at diaconate, so I wanted my current pastor to vest me here at priesthood.”