My Ordination to Priesthood
After three years of hectic study of Theology I was looking forward to my ordination to the priesthood. At that era we Jesuits had the privilege of being ordained at the end of the third year of theology and therefore the 24th March1962 was the much awaited day. Besides a week of Retreat to prepare ourselves for the ordination to the priesthood, our fellow Jesuits in St Mary’s Mazagaon took on themselves the onus of having the Ordination ceremony on the grounds of St. Mary’s, an open air Cathedral.
We were 35 “Ordinandi” one of the largest groups to be ordained on one and the same time and spot. Thank God it was St Mary’s, for who better than our artist Bro Pardo could do better justice to make a stage that was extended as it was strong. With his band of committed workers, he saw to the minutest detail of beauty and art.Looking down on us was the massive picture of Our Lady of Valdaimir of Russia for at that time the specter of atheistic communism was amajor threat and needed the powerful prayers of the Mother of God to undo the damage of atheistic communism which was backed by a powerful military and was able to threaten the free world and therefore was most appropriate for the occasion. Later, time showed that no powerful nation can sustain itself without the concept of God and today ‘communist Russia” no longer exists, thank to the Mother of God.
The Ordination was held in the evening and very soon 35 to-be ordained priests knelt in silence awaiting his Eminence Cardinal Valerian Gracias who was to ordain us. The entire ambience made one and all feel the presence of God’s Spirit, the host of concelebrant priests, the smartly dressed altar servers,the ever lilting Choir of St Anne’s made the occasion a day to remember with joy and happiness.
And as the Choir intoned the “Ecce Sacherdos” to welcome the presiding Bishop, the St Anne’s bells rang in joyful peals and the ceremony of 35 newly ordained priests came to be.The ceremony lasted an hour and a half and was climaxed as the Cardinal lay his hands on each one of us: “Thou are a priest for ever.”. Present at the ceremony were our parents, relatives and two thousand strong well wishers who witnessed a most touching ceremony: The Ordination to the Priesthood.
We had spent nine years of Jesuit training awaiting this memorable day. A further high point of the ceremony was when together with the Cardinal we consecrated bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus and at last in one glorious last Blessing, all thirty-five ordained priests blessed our Parents, our relative and all present.We were from now on missionaries of Christ’s love.
On the Feast of the Annunciation the 25th March I celebrated my First Mass in St Andrew’s Church where I was christened, given the bread of life in Holy Communion, anointed with holy chrism in the Sacrament of Confirmation and now as priest was offering my First Mass. At that time the Mass was said facing the altar and not the people and of course in Latin. I had my Parish priest, Msg George Farnandes, whose cause has been lately introduced, he was by my side together with my spiritual guide Fr Ignatius Errasquin.S.J.
Feelings f joy and at the same time unworthiness filled my heart through out the Mass. It was with a sense of awe and admiration that I offered with my own hand the “Bread of Life” holy communion to my Dad and Mum, brothers and in laws and a host of friends. How unworthy I felt as one and all came to kiss my newly anointed hands after Mass!
Dad and my brothers had arranged a grand reception to felicitate me at the Bandra Gymkhana which lasted through the morning. Fr Daniel Donnelly S.J whom I loved and admired as an outstanding Jesuit educationist raised the “Toast” to my health and service as a priest and educationist. His Blessings still carries on!There were speeches and poems and songs but the climax of the morning were the East Indian Dances professionally put up by a troupe headed by Mr. D’Mello. My brother an ace photographer prepared a full Album recalling memories to live and enjoy.It was thus I was launched as a priest and fulfil my dreams.
I still had a year of theological studies to go through but the holy oils that anointed my hands, gave me a new impetus to give and to give and to give more of myself to Jesus. My favorite prayer still remains the Prayer of Cardinal Newman:
Help me to spread Thy fragrance every where I go
Flood my soul with Thy spirit and life, penetrate and
Possess my being so utterly,
That all my life may only be a radiance of Thine.
Shine through me and be so in me,
That every soul I come in contact with,
May feel Thy presence in their soul,
Let them look on me and see no longer me,
But only Thee O Lord Jesus.”
A Motto to keep before me daily as a priest!
You are writing a Gospel, a Chapter each day.
By the deeds that you do and the words that you say,
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true,
Pray and reflect daily what is the Gospel according to you!