Bishop Burbidge’s Priesthood Ordinations Homily: May They Be Instruments of Mercy

On Saturday, June 10, 2017, Fr. Steven Oetjen, Fr. Stephen Vaccaro and Fr. Jordan Willard were ordained priests for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington, delivered the following homily for the 2017 Priesthood Ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More:

Priesthood-Ordinations-2017-CREDIT-Lori-Fowlkes (11).jpgWhat a blessed day for the Church and our diocese as these three men, your sons, brothers, family members and friends, are about to be ordained priests. There are many words associated with the number “three” and I was trying to think of which one might best describe our candidates. We may think of “Trinity” especially as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity beginning this evening. Now, although our soon-to-be-ordained priests have received extraordinary reviews from their seminary faculties, they are just not yet at that level of Trinity!

However, in reference to the number three, they could be considered “wise men.” For they wisely understand, as the prophet Jeremiah told them today, that it is the Lord God who formed them in the womb and remains with them to deliver them. They also wisely embrace the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, the One who calls them His friends and tells them that only in Him will their joy be complete.

We will shortly witness a miracle as these three candidates, through the laying on of hands and the Prayer of Ordination, will be ordained priests and forever configured to the very person of Jesus Christ. The Ordination Prayer speaks about the ministry of the priest: to be a worthy co-worker with the Bishop, to preach the Gospel, to be a faithful steward of the sacred mysteries. The Prayer also calls forth the gift of the Holy Spirit to make these men holy and ever faithful. They will wisely and daily call upon the grace of the Holy Spirit so they may be ever true to their commitment to live totally for Christ and His Church in the celibate state and to their promises of respect and obedience.

Steven, Jordan, and Stephen, upon Ordination you will be sent to serve the faithful at the parishes of St. James, St. Theresa and Nativity. So many will begin to introduce themselves to you. In addition to telling you their names, they will also tell you something about themselves as they directly and indirectly convey their spiritual disposition and pastoral needs.


For example, many times you will hear the faithful express to you their desire to be reconciled to God as they acknowledge their human weakness and sinfulness. Through you, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, the faithful will be made ever more aware of God’s great love and of the truth that no sin is greater than His infinite mercy.

In many different ways the faithful, including our young people, will convey to you that they are disillusioned with the empty promises of the world. They seek the Truth and nourishment that will sustain them. How blessed are you to preach the Gospel with conviction and compassion. Be sure to remember the words of St. Paul: “We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord!” In addition, how blessed will you be to administer the Sacraments and especially to offer daily the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that God’s people are nourished with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, the true and eternal gifts that satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst.

Dear candidates, the parishes to which you will be sent to serve have countless pastoral and spiritual needs and will demand constant outreach especially to the poor, the sick and most vulnerable and those who have wandered from God. You will have to work hard, but must be able to awake each new day with renewed vigor and zeal. This can only occur if you heed the words of Jesus who says: “Remain in my love” So, never allow the busyness of priestly ministry to take you away from your highest priorities: being still with the Lord each and every day in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament; praying fervently, including the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours and turning to Our Blessed Mother for her powerful intercession.


Steven, Jordan, and Stephen, our soon-to-be newest priests: the Lord our God sends you forth to be instruments of His mercy; to nourish His people with the Truth of the Gospel and the Sacraments of the Church; to imitate His humble and sacrificial service; and to proclaim to others that only in Jesus Christ will our joy be complete. So, be wise, and Remain in his love, the One who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

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