Just before ordaining Rev. Mr. Kevin Hrycenko to the priesthood, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., shared his measure of the Diocese’s newest priest.
“He is ready. He is willing. He’s a good man,” Bishop O’Connell said to the hundreds of loved ones and friends who gathered for the June 3 Mass in St. Joseph Church, Toms River.
“The Church of the Diocese of Trenton needs him. We need him,” Bishop O’Connell said moments before the Ordination Rite began. “Jesus Christ now calls you, Kevin Hrycenko, calls you in his Church, in our Diocese, to be his priest, to be our priest.”
Becoming A Priest Forever
As the parish church in which Hrycenko was raised, receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, First Eucharist and Confirmation, St. Joseph Church held special significance as the site of his Ordination Mass.
That familiar setting was transformed on this special day by the presence of Bishop O’Connell and some 50 priest concelebrants, including Msgr. Andrew Baker, rector of Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, where Father Hrycenko prepared for the priesthood.
The Rite of Ordination began with Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians, calling then-Deacon Hrycenko forth and attesting that he was prepared and approved for Ordination. In response, the transitional deacon affirmed that he came willingly and faithfully to the priesthood and promised his obedience to the Bishop and his successors.
Rev. Mr. Hrycenko then lay prostrate on the sanctuary floor, signifying his dependence on God as the Diocesan Festival Choir led the ancient Litany of the Saints, invoking the Church’s holy men and women to pray for him, as well as all gathered in the congregation.
PHOTO GALLERY: Father Hrycenko's Ordination Mass
PHOTO GALLERY: Father Hrycenko's First Mass
Bishop O’Connell then laid his hands on Rev. Mr. Hrycenko’s head, invoking the Holy Spirit and ordaining him a priest. The concelebrating priests then followed suit, one-by-one, laying their hands on the head of their new brother priest.
Following the moment of Ordination, Father Hrycenko was then vested in the stole and chasuble, the garments of his priestly office, by Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, and former parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish.
Father Hrycenko again knelt before Bishop O’Connell, who anointed his hands with sacred chrism and wrapped them with a linen cloth. The Bishop then presented him with a paten and chalice.
The new priest exchanged the symbolic Kiss of Peace with the Bishop, followed by the other priests. Father Hrycenko then joined Bishop O’Connell at the altar as a concelebrant for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
After Communion, Father Hrycenko offered his first blessing to Bishop O’Connell as a sign of fraternity and solidarity.
Words of Wisdom
During his homily, Bishop O’Connell asked about the new priest: “What do we need him for? What do we need from him? What do we need him to be?”
First, the Bishop said, “We need him to be a man of God. That is his most important responsibility: holiness of life.
“Kevin you cannot hope to be a good priest if you do not love Jesus Christ above all else,” the Bishop said. “Strive to be holy.”
Second, “We need him to be a man of the Church.”
As priests, “It is our obligation and our fundamental identity to be the face and the very identity of the Church of Jesus Christ,” the Bishop said. “Its teachings are our teachings, the easy ones as well as the difficult; its initiatives are our initiatives; its faith is our faith. We believe that everything has been given to us by God in the Church.
“Kevin, strive to be faithful.”
Third, “We need him to be a man of the Diocese of Trenton.”
“This is your home, my newest priest,” the Bishop said. “This community of priests is your family and the people of the parishes where you will serve are your people – to lead, to serve, to baptize, to forgive, to nourish, to evangelize, to strengthen, to support, to love,” Bishop O’Connell said.
“Kevin, strive to be loving and kind.”
Fourth, “We need him to serve God’s people.”
“The priesthood is not about you, Kevin, or any of us for that matter,” Bishop O’Connell said. “It is about God. It is about Jesus Christ. He has called you. He has given you grace. He has made you ready. Recognize that and be a humble priest.”
A Day of Rejoicing
The joyful emotions of the day – reflected in the smiles and tears seen on many faces throughout the church – intensified following the Mass as Father Hrycenko left the sanctuary and moved down the center aisle to the jubilant reception of the congregation. The new priest then returned to the base of the sanctuary where he greeted well-wishers and loved ones and offered them his blessing.
Many shared fond memories and expressed their elation and love for the new priest. Among the well-wishers were current and former faculty members of St. Joseph School and parish staff.
Madeline Kinloch, who is now the school’s principal, was a gym teacher when Father Hrycenko was a student and she also lived in the same neighborhood as his family.
“He is very much suited for this vocation. He is very caring, has a giving spirit and a good sense of humor,” she said. “To see a student ordained a priest is very moving, it’s a special day.”
Kinloch noted that students in St. Joseph School made spiritual bouquet cards for Father Hrycenko.
Dominican Sister Jean Spena, who taught Father Hrycenko in grade school, recalled her student as being “the kid who always smiled and was very friendly.
“Today is a real blessing to see him become a priest,” she said. “We need guys who are dedicated to the Church and their vocation. He will be a wonderful example.”
Catherine Werner, youth minister in St. Joseph Parish, said Father Hrycenko was in youth ministry from 7th through 12th grades. She described him as a “joyful teen” who came from a faith-filled family who attended Mass regularly. He was also involved as an altar server and cantor.
“Youth ministry matters,” Werner said.
“The way in which we love and nurture young people can bear amazing fruit,” she said, revealing a sense of gratitude that “not every youth minister gets to see one of his or her members become a priest.
“Today is wonderful,” she said. “I just love him. I’m so proud of him.”
Father Hrycenko’s uncle, Joe Smith, commented how “great” it has been to witness his nephew maturing into a man of faith, especially in the past several years he’s been in the seminary.
“He’s obviously not ‘little Kevin’ anymore but he’ll always be ‘little Kevin’ to me,” Smith said. “I want him to know that I will always pray for him and always be here for him.”
Father Hrycenko’s father, Walter, spoke of how his family has always been close to the Church and how meaningful it is for him and his wife, Loretto, to have “one of our children be open to the call to a vocation, respond to it and be so happy about it.
“That makes all the difference,” Hrycenko said.
“Kevin was glowing all throughout the Mass,” Hrycenko said, his eyes welling with tears. “He was open to what he felt called to do and here he is – Father Kevin Hrycenko.”