Archbishop calls three new priests to use gifts to help flock ‘abide in God’s love’

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron hands a chalice and paten to newly ordained Fr. Mark Livingston during an ordination Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on May 19. Fr. Livingston was ordained to the priesthood along with Fr. Christopher Muer and Fr. John Maksym. Fr. Muer will serve at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Waterford; Fr. Livingston will serve at St. John Neumann Parish in Canton; and Fr. Maksym will serve at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Lake Orion. (Photos by Tim Fuller, Special to The Michigan Catholic)

Frs. Maksym, Muer and Livingston ordained before full church at Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament

Fr. Christopher Muer, left, and Fr. Mark Livingston await their turn to approach Archbishop Vigneron, to whom they promised faithfulness and obedience as they were ordained priests May 19.
DETROIT — An ordination rite, like most Catholic liturgies, is rich in symbolism.

The ordinands’ hands are anointed with oil, signifying their identification with Christ the priest, prophet and king. They lie prostrate before the altar as the litany of the saints of old is chanted. They are handed bread and wine, and told to “Know what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

So the actual act of ordination, the simple laying on of the bishop’s hands, might seem understated as rituals go. But for three new priests ordained May 19 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the moment was anything but understated.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron welcomed Fathers John Maksym, Mark Livingston and Christopher Muer to the ranks of priesthood for the Archdiocese of Detroit, giving them the charge of leading God’s people to “abide in His love.”

Gifts for the Church

Commenting on the second reading from the first letter of Peter, Archbishop Vigneron noted that God makes use of a priest’s whole being in bringing others to Christ.

“Your ordination is not simply your entrustment with some tasks. It’s not some sort of job. This is given to you as a consecration,” Archbishop Vigneron told the three men in his homily. “All of your gifts — your gift of using language, your gifts of practical and theoretical intelligence, your gifts of energy and charm and integrity and zeal, even the limits you feel about those gifts — by the imposition hands and the consecration prayer, all of this is given to the mission. Nothing is held back. It all belongs to this great task of preaching the good news to all creatures and advancing the kingdom of God.

During his homily, Archbishop Vigneron encouraged the newly ordained priests to "invite others" to a friendship and relationship with Christ.
“Everything you have and everything you are is dedicated to this great work,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

At the start of his homily, Archbishop Vigneron was visibly moved by the attendance of the 88-year-old Cardinal Adam J. Maida, whose presence, he said “reminds me that I am able to perform this rite because you were for so many years our bishop.”

“That is a great way for all of us to be reminded that we are an apostolic Church. You, in your time, were the symbol, the sacrament, that we share the same life that Christ gave to the apostles,” Archbishop Vigneron told the retired cardinal.

The apostolic nature of the Church is especially borne out during Pentecost weekend, the archbishop said, which in the Archdiocese of Detroit is a “liturgical trifecta” with the ordination of priests, the celebration of the Church’s missionary life during the Pentecost vigil and confirmations on Pentecost Sunday.

“This Pentecost weekend is a solemn pledge that we are resolved to be a missionary diocese, and God’s pledge that He hears our prayer and this is what He wants,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

Congratulating the three new priests along with their families, friends, classmates and formation advisers, Archbishop Vigneron said their preaching in the New Evangelization is about “a call to embrace Christ.”

Fr. Mark Livingston offers Communion to a religious sister during the ordination Mass.
“In some sense, that’s the content of every homily. It’s the kerygma, a proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he has died, risen and sits at the Father’s right hand as our savior,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It’s a saving word.”

Gratitude to God

During the ordination rite, Archbishop Vigneron called the three candidates forward, questioning Msgr. Todd Lajiness, rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, whether the candidates were ready for ordination. Upon receiving an affirmative answer, the archbishop confirmed the men’s election to the order of priesthood.

Each of the three then approached the archbishop, promising faithfulness and obedience. As the candidates lay prostrate before the altar, a litany of supplication was chanted by the congregation. Then, one by one, the deacons approached the archbishop, who laid his hands upon them in prayer, ordaining them as priests.

In a symbol of the brotherhood of the priesthood, each of the dozens of priests in attendance then did the same, laying their hands upon their newly ordained brethren, who were next vested with the stole and chasuble.

Finishing the ordination rite, Archbishop Vigneron then anointed the new priests’ hands with the Holy Chrism, presented them with gifts of bread and wine, and offered his fraternal embrace and congratulations.

Fr. John Maksym offers words of thanksgiving on behalf of his ordination classmates.
One behalf of the ordination class, Fr. Maksym thanked Archbishop Vigneron, family and friends, the priests and deacons in attendance, and all who had helped prepare the men for ordination.

“We would also like to thank our parents, those who are physically sharing this amazing moment with us at this great table today, and those we believe have a better seat near Christ,” said Fr. Maksym, 56, whose parents, Anthony and Dr. Jeanne Maksym, are deceased.

Finally, “and of greatest importance,” Fr. Maksym said, “we thank Almighty God for calling us to tend to the vineyard and to endeavor daily to protect the eternal souls of His wonderful people and working with many of them to bring His saving word and sacraments to those who, overtaken by a cynical and materialistic world, cannot seem to hear the clarion call of His voice.”

Fr. Maksym, who spent 31 years in the Navy and served as an Appeals Court judge before studying at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Boston, challenged those in attendance to support, encourage and nurture possibly priestly vocations in men “both young and not so young.”

“God bless you all and know that we are all honored by your presence,” Fr. Maksym concluded.

A special day

For the families of the newly ordained, the day was almost just as special.

Fr. Christopher Muer blesses Missionaries of Charity sisters outside the cathedral after the ordination Mass. In Catholic tradition, a priest's first blessings confer powerful graces.

“Humbling is probably the best word. It’s a lot of mixed emotions. I’m very happy for him,” said David Muer said about watching his son ascend the altar. “All I’ve ever wanted for any of my children is that they be happy, and when I look at Christopher, he is one of the happiest children I have. He is loving and will enjoy every moment of the priesthood. I think of my mom and grandma who are not here, but they would just be so proud.”

David Muer added his son, who comes from a construction background, is a “man’s man” who’s down to earth and humble before others.

“He’s very approachable, open, loving and honest. I think that will serve him well,” David Muer said. Fr. Muer will serve his first assignment as associate pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Waterford.

Mark Livingston, father of the new priest who shares his name, said the ordination was a “beautiful ceremony.” Watching his son become ordained is “a great feeling. It’s the end of a journey, and yet the beginning,” Mark Livingston said.

“He’s been in social work, in hospital work, and he’s just a caring person,” Mark Livingston said of the new Fr. Livingston, who will serve as associate pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Canton. “It’s just the way he is. He’s a great son, and we’re very proud of him.”

Helen Hicks, the oldest sister of Fr. Maksym, said she knew her brother was called to be a priest from a young age.

“We all grew up together, and he used to celebrate the Mass when he was 4 or 5 years old. When the rest of us were playing with dolls and toys, he was saying the Mass in his room,” Hicks said. “I’m really glad that he’s finally heard this voice. He had many different callings in his mind, but his heart said this was the one for him.”

Hicks added she hopes her brother shares his passion for service and leadership with the flock to whom he’s entrusted as associate pastor at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Lake Orion.

“I hope he’s open to accepting the entire congregation and providing them with good spiritual leadership and love,” Hicks said. “He should have done this a long time ago.”

More photos

To see more photos from this morning's ordination Mass, visit The Michigan Catholic's photo gallery page.

The new priests pose with Archbishop Vigneron and the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Detroit outside the rectory at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.