Ancient rites, new priests
FORT WORTH — Edna Moon gave birth to seven children and every time the baby was a boy, she asked God to send her a priest.
Alana and Mike Demma, the parents of six boys, had similar hopes.
The prayers of both families were realized May 19 with the ordination of Maurice Moon and Jonathan Demma to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood. A standing-room-only crowd of relatives, friends, and parishioners from across the diocese gathered inside St. Patrick Cathedral on a sunny Saturday morning to witness Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson confer the sacrament of Holy Orders during a Mass imbued with centuries-old rituals.
Watching the ordination ceremony unfold was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Moon’s 88-year-old grandmother, Edna. Her three sons never considered the priesthood, “then my grandson entered the seminary and I thanked God for answering my prayers,” said the devout Catholic who traveled from a retirement village in San Antonio for the occasion. “I’m glad I was around to see God grant my wish.”
Michael Demma remembered when his son, Jonathan, announced he was leaving Texas A&M University to pursue a religious vocation. The engineering student had a 3.7 GPA and was headed toward a promising career.
“I’m a practical thinker so my only consternation was Jonathan not finishing school,” he admitted. “We have six sons. When one of them wanted to serve God with his life, we were thrilled.”
During welcoming remarks at the start of the Ordination Mass, Bishop Olson recognized Maurice Moon’s mother and father, Maureen and Randy Moon, and the Demma family who filled the front pews of the cathedral.
“I especially want to thank the parents of our ordinands who fostered the gift of faith in their lives,” he said. “You helped them persevere to this moment that the Lord has called them to.”
The bishop also expressed gratitude to the seminaries where Moon and Demma studied, as well as Father Jonathan Wallis, diocesan director of seminarians, and members of the vocations team, Father Matthew Tatyrek, Father Keith Hathaway, Father Manuel Holguin, and Father Nghia Nguyen.
Presented to the bishop as the rite of ordination began, the transitional deacons were accepted by him as worthy candidates on behalf of the entire Church with the words: Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these men, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood.
The congregation responded to the proclamation with spontaneous applause.
Addressing the ordinands during his homily, Bishop Olson reminded the men they are called by name as friends of Jesus Christ and will prophesy to people by preaching, teaching, and exemplifying the entire truth of His Gospel.
“In the celebration of the sacraments, you will prophetically reveal God’s desires for his people,” he explained. “These desires include entrance into eternal life, freedom from original sin, and membership in His Church through Baptism.”
Along with the merciful absolution of sins, witnessing the life-giving love of the sacrament of Matrimony and healing sin’s effects in illness and death through the Anointing of the Sick, a priest carries out the mission of Christ by celebrating the Eucharist. People see Christ’s face, “in your attentively reverent and priestly presence as celebrant and presider,” the bishop added. “And most especially in the bread and wine consecrated through your praying of Christ’s words becoming His body, blood, soul, and divinity.”
Bishop Olson encouraged the soon-to-be priests to spend time with Jesus in prayer “as with a friend.” Prayerful conversation, he said, nourishes the prophetic character of a priestly vocation.
“Christ desires that you treat Him as a friend and not as a passing acquaintance or useful benefactor,” the homilist pointed out. “The people of God depend on this.”
Offering some final words for reflection, Bishop Olson asked the ordinands to remember another gift Christ gave his people—Mary, his mother. A source of help for all Christians, Mary provides special motherly care for her Son’s priests.
“She assists us in cultivating the virtue of purity of heart and fosters in us a sense of approachable compassion for all God’s people. Our Blessed Mother assists us in saying ‘yes’ to God with trust in the midst of frightening circumstances that would be overwhelming and insurmountable without God’s grace,” he said, concluding with one last piece of advice. “Pray to her.”
After promising obedience to the bishop and his successors, the seminarians prostrated themselves in front of the marble altar. Dressed in white albs with their faces buried in their arms, the candidates for the priesthood submitted themselves to God and the Christian community as the congregants sang the Litany of the Saints. Cantor Michele Baker, with a combined choir from St. Patrick Cathedral and Nolan Catholic High School, led the ancient plea for divine assistance.
Rising from prayer, each man knelt before the bishop as the essential rite of the sacrament took place. Laying his hands on the head, Bishop Olson invoked the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the ordinand. This Biblically-based sign of apostolic succession imparts a sacred character that makes the recipient “a priest forever.”
The newly ordained then received symbolic vestments of ministry—a stole and chasuble—from fellow priests instrumental in their vocation journey. Monsignor E. James Hart and Father Michael Kmiotek, CFR, served as vesting priests for Father Demma with Father Raymond McDaniel and Father Nghia Nguyen doing the honors for Father Moon.
Presented with a paten and chalice after their palms were anointed with holy chrism, the new priests were welcomed into the Order of Presbyters by Bishop Olson and approximately 100 diocesan and visiting priests in attendance.
A group of parishioners from St. Philip the Apostle in Lewisville arrived early for the Ordination Mass. Waiting for the ceremony to start, Rose Adams remembered meeting a soft-spoken seminarian five years ago.
“Maurice Moon was sitting next to me in church and he said he hoped to be a priest someday. I thought that was so great and now he did it,” beamed the longtime St. Philip parishioner. “That’s why I wanted to be here today. I wouldn’t miss it.”
She prayed for the seminarian, who considers St. Philip his home parish, every day but especially on Thursdays during parish Adoration.
“You could tell being a priest was in his bones. He was so comfortable on the altar,” Adams observed. “We’re proud of him.”
Gabe Gutierrez met Jonathan Demma when both were in their early 20s and members at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller. He witnessed firsthand his friend’s decision to enter the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and then return to Fort Worth to become a diocesan priest.
“There have been wonderful times and there have been struggles,” Gutierrez said. “To see it all come together for him is a blessing. Without priests, we wouldn’t have the sacramental nature of the Church that gives us life. It’s wonderful to recognize that.”