Archbishop instructs new priests to become missionaries in southeast Michigan
DETROIT —The five newest priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit could not have received a clearer message about their mission: Bring the Gospel to God’s people.
Deacons John Bettin, Andrew Dawson, Grayson Heenan, Matthew Hood and Craig Marion each entered the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Saturday, June 3, sitting with their families as Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron explained what was expected of them.
“As priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit, today you’re consecrated to lead in this effort in helping us all be missionaries to ‘unleash the Gospel’,” Archbishop Vigneron said, invoking the archdiocese's battle cry for evangelization. “To be consecrated, every talent, faculty, every hour of your life, even in your leisure time, is in some way directed to this. You are called to be missionaries.”
Before the archdiocese’s newest priests, Archbishop Vigneron previewed details of the pastoral letter he was to release later that night during the Pentecost Vigil, assuring the five men they will be directly involved the new evangelization.
“Tonight, I will be able to publish the fruits of our synod, Synod 16,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “We’ll all be united in keeping a vigil, watching for the Holy Spirit. The letter will seek to equip us and the Church to be a band of joyful missionary disciples. So in a way, this is a preview of tonight’s vigil, a kind of vigil of a vigil.”
Archbishop Vigneron thanked former archbishop Cardinal Adam J. Maida, who was in attendance, for moving priestly ordination in the archdiocese to Pentecost, noting how priests, like the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles, are gifts from the Holy Spirit.
“Priests are gifts from the Holy Spirit to the local Church,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It’s been a gift that for all these years, the Holy Spirit has been at work in your hearts. Sometimes, as far as I know in stories, it’s been heard pretty loudly, despite your attempts to block it out.”
After the homily, the five deacons stood before the archbishop, asked whether they desired to be ordained as priests and lining up to give a vow of obedience to Archbishop Vigneron and his successors.
After lying prostrate while the litany of supplication was sung, the elect rose and knelt before the archbishop for the laying on of hands and the Prayer of Ordination. After the archbishop laid his hands on the elect -- ordaining them as priests -- the other bishops and priests in attendance did the same, all while the choir sang Ven Sancte Spiritus the Pentecost sequence in Gregorian Chant.
When the five men rose, they rose as priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The new priests were then vested and prepared for the archbishop to anoint their palms with holy Chrism, anointing them with the Holy Spirit to sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God.
The newly ordained priests' families helped bring up the gifts for new priests’ first celebration of the Eucharist, beginning their ministry as shepherds in Christ’s church.
“On behalf of my brother priests, my sincere gratitude to you, archbishop, for your leadership and example of docility to the Holy Spirit,” said Fr. Andrew Dawson, who gave the address on behalf of his ordination class. “We are now coworkers in a world that needs Jesus. Thanks also to our spiritual directors and our seminary formation teams that guided us through seminary, who no doubt often wanted us sent somewhere, anywhere, just away,” Fr. Dawson joked.
“We also would like to thank all the priests who’ve inspired us, for your love of Christ. Thank you for all your prayers and all that has been done. To our brother seminarians, we wouldn’t be here without your encouragement and understanding of what it is to live the life of a seminarian, and we look forward to you joining us in the priesthood someday.”
Fr. Dawson also thanked the teaching staff at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and all the people who organized the ordination Mass, before turning his and the class’ attention to the people who introduced Jesus to them – their families.
“Thank you, to our parents and families, for introducing us to Jesus,” Fr. Dawson said. “For nurturing our faith and teaching us what it means to be a Christian.”
Fr. Dawson invoked the intercession of Our Lady in praying for himself and his classmates, who are sent out for the great mission of evangelizing and bringing Christ to the world.
“Under the watchful protection of our Blessed Mother, may we get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit be manifest in all His glory,” Fr. Dawson said.
For the families of the newly ordained, the day was one of great joy, pride, emotion and thanksgiving for all the Lord has brought into their lives.
Barbara Coates, the eldest sister of Fr. John Bettin, said the moment it hit her that her youngest brother was a priest was when he was first introduced as “Fr. John Bettin.”
“I’m just at total happiness, such gratitude for the Lord; happy to be a sister to a priest,” said Coates, a parishioner of Prince of Peace Parish in Muskegon. “His compassion, his kindness, that’s what will make him a great priest. He has this great love for the Lord, that will make him such a great priest.”
Coming from a family of 11, Coates said the family isn’t too worried about sharing Fr. Bettin with the archdiocese, since sharing is an integral part of living in a big family.
Denise Hood, the mother of Fr. Matthew Hood, and a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion, said Fr. Hood told his parents he was going to enter the seminary when we was about to finish college.
“We’re so happy, so blessed he’s taken this choice,” Denise Hood said.
When asked about how most Catholic mothers want their sons to find a woman, get married and have children, Denise Hood joked, “He’s a twin, so I have those hopes for him (his brother).”
Denise said her son’s catching personality is what will make him a great priest.
“I’m hoping his personality will bring more Catholics into the Church; he has such a great way of connecting with people. For me, when he became a deacon, it felt right. I knew that he was meant to be a priest.”
For Anne Heenan, the mother of Fr. Grayson Heenan, the day was very emotional, one of mixed feelings, but culminating in tremendous joy for her son, who’s found his calling in serving God’s people.
“I feel very blessed, so honored that my son has become a priest,” said Anne Heenan, a member of St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms. “My father was a devout Catholic, and I know he’s watching from heaven, smiling. I feel blessed myself to have such a holy son. He’s giving up so much in the way of a family; it’s a very selfless thing to do. But as a priest, he will be a father to many. He’s a warm, affectionate, loving man. He’ll be adopted by so many families.”