On Thursday, 1 October 2015, 39 seminarians from the Pontifical North American College were ordained to the transitional diaconate during a celebration of the Eucharist. Paul Stephen Bechter and Emmett Vivian Hall, IV of the Diocese of Dallas were among those ordained.
His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, was the ordaining prelate at the Ordination Mass, celebrated at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, in the Vatican. Cardinal Dolan, a native of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, an alumnus of the North American College and past Rector has been the Archbishop of New York since 2010, and was created a Cardinal in the Consistory of February 2012 and participated in the Conclave which elected Pope Francis in 2013.
In his homily, Cardinal Dolan spoke to those about to be ordained about the paradoxes of the Christian faith, which are manifested in the Ordination Rite itself. “You were called forth and were said to be found worthy, and yet we began our prayer with an acknowledgment to God of our sinfulness. You come here freely and yet will make a promise of obedience to your Ordinary. You are raised up to serve at the altar, yet in a moment you will lie down prostrate in a symbol of submission to the supplication to the saints on your behalf.” Cardinal Dolan continued that this is all perfectly fitting in the Basilica dedicated to the Apostle Peter, whose own martyrdom, on a cross upside down, allowed him more clearly to see right side up the Jesus whose love he had come to imitate.
During the ordination, the new deacons promised to live a life of prayer, celibacy and obedience to their diocesan bishop. The new deacons will have an additional year of theological studies and spiritual formation before being ordained to the priesthood in their home dioceses.
As part of the ordination rite, the Cardinal placed the Book of the Gospels in the hands of each candidate being ordained and said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
The Pontifical North American College serves as the American seminary in Rome. Founded in 1859 by Blessed Pius IX, the college has formed over 5000 priests near the heart of the Church for service in dioceses around the United States, Canada, and Australia. The College strengthens the bonds between Rome and local Churches worldwide, and it allows its students to study the Church’s rich religious and cultural heritage at close range.