Lord Have Mercy – As a sign of their humility and dependence on God, the ordination candidates prostrate themselves on the floor of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, as the congregation sings the Litany of the Saints. Craig Pittelli photo

Lord Have Mercy – As a sign of their humility and dependence on God, the ordination candidates prostrate themselves on the floor of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, as the congregation sings the Litany of the Saints. Craig Pittelli photo

"An incredible occasion of joy" is how Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., described the ordination of six men to the "priesthood of our Lord, Jesus Christ" during a Mass and the rite of Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood June 4 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

Standing before Bishop O’Connell, the principal celebrant of the Mass; Bishop Emeritus John M. Smith, principal concelebrant, and nearly 100 priest concelebrants, the six men,who professed their vows to serve God, the Catholic Church and the people of the Diocese of Trenton were: Father H. Todd Carter, Father Carlos A. Florez, Father Kevin J. Kimtis, Father Fernando A. Lopez, Father Christopher P. Picollo and Father John Testa.  The six men comprised one of the largest classes that the diocese has seen in many years.

For Bishop O’Connell, the day was particularly poignant as it was the first time he ordained priests. The day of the ordination – June 4 – coincidently fell on the first anniversary of Bishop O’Connell’s appointment as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Trenton by Pope Benedict XVI.

"There is a great deal of emotion here in the sanctuary and joy that we have as we see our brothers ordained to the priesthood in service of all of you in this Church of the diocese," said Bishop O’Connell.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell recalled the ministry of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Congregation of the Mission community, also known as the Vincentians. Calling St. Vincent a model priest, the bishop noted how St. Vincent spent much of his ministry in the training and service of diocesan priests.

St. Vincent, said Bishop O’Connell, who himself was ordained a Vincentian priest, “saw the priesthood as an opportunity for people in the parishes to encounter Jesus Christ: the preaching of Christ, the teaching of Christ, the healing of Christ, the consoling of Christ, the forgiving Christ, the merciful Christ, the living God, Jesus Christ.”

Quoting Vincent de Paul’s words: “There is nothing greater in the world, nothing I say, than the formation of good priests,” Bishop O’Connell then said: “Vincent de Paul believed that with all his heart. And as a son of St. Vincent and your bishop, I believe that will all my heart.”

“We have before us six young men – your sons and brothers and friends – who have completed their seminary formation and are about to be ordained priests,” said Bishop O’Connell, referring to how each of the six men had successfully completed his formation.

“They are good men. They have been formed well. They are ready. And the Church of the Diocese of Trenton needs them. We need them,” said Bishop O’Connell.

'Thou Art a Priest'

The Rite of Ordination began as the then deacons – Rev. Messrs. Carter, Florez, Kimtis, Lopez, Picollo and Testa – came before Bishop O’Connell who announced that they had been chosen for the order of priesthood. Father Dennis Apoldite, director of the diocesan House of Priestly Formation, called the candidates forth. Each candidate told the bishop he came willingly and faithfully to the priesthood and then each man promised his obedience to the authority of the Church.

The six men then prostrated themselves on the floor before the altar as the Litany of Saints was chanted by the congregation. All prayed for the intercession of the saints, including the patron saints of the ordinands, to send the Holy Spirit down upon the new priests.

Bishop O’Connell ordained each man by laying his hands on their heads and praying silently, invoking the Holy Spirit upon each. Bishop Smith and the many concelebrating priests who were in attendance then laid hands on the heads of the ordinands, signifying their sharing in one priesthood.

The newly ordained priests were then assisted by a brother priest to replace the vestments of the deacon with the stole and chasuble, the garments worn by the priest at Mass.

Each of the newly ordained selected a friend, colleague or mentor as their vesting priest.

Father Daniel Hesko, pastor of St. Catherine Parish, Middletown, was vesting priest for Father Carter; Capuchin Franciscan Father Lester Knoll for Father Florez; Father Andrew Fisher of the Diocese of Arlington, Va., for Father Kimtis; Father Rene Pulgarin, parochial vicar of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, for Father Lopez; Father Damian McElroy, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, for Father Picollo, and Conventual Franciscan Father Richard Rossell, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Seaside Heights, for Father Testa.

The six priests then once again knelt before the bishop as he anointed their palms. Following the presentation of the gifts by family members of the new priests, Bishop O’Connell presented each man with a paten and chalice, which went on to hold the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. After the Rite of Ordination was complete, Bishop Smith and each of the priests concelebrating the Mass greeted the new priests with a sign of peace in the form of a warm embrace. The new priests then joined Bishop O’Connell in celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist for the first time.

After Communion, the two bishops knelt before the new priests to receive their first blessings.