Bishop Olson ordains six men to priesthood, largest class in diocesan history
ARLINGTON — Six men, ordained into the Sacred Order of the Priesthood May 22 in Vietnamese Martyrs Church, marked a moment of history for Diocese of Fort Worth. They are the largest class of candidates to complete seminary formation since the diocese was established almost 52 years ago.
Jason Allan, Thomas Jones, Joseph Moreno, Hai Linh Nguyen, Samuel Maul, and Brett Metzler received the sacrament of Holy Orders from Bishop Michael Olson during an ordination rite steeped in the traditions of the early Church.
Concelebrating the Ordination Mass with the bishop were the Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon, of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA; Father Jonathan Wallis, diocesan vicar general; Monsignor E. James Hart, diocesan chancellor and moderator of the curia; and Father Hy Nguyen, PSS, rector of Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. Also participating in the liturgy were 99 priests, 45 deacons, the Fort Worth Brass Ensemble, and choir members from Vietnamese Martyrs, St. Patrick Cathedral, and the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
A special piece of music, Psalm 96, was composed and written by Bach Phan specifically for the Ordination Mass to celebrate “the Diocese of Fort Worth first abundant harvest 2021.”
Attendance at the morning liturgy was limited to family members and close friends of the candidates because of continuing COVID precautions. More than 2,600 households watched the event livestreamed on the diocesan website, fwdioc.org.
Welcoming the congregation at the start of the Mass, Bishop Olson thanked the parents of the ordinands who “prayed for this day and walked with their sons.”
The men were ordained transitional deacons on March 19, 2020, just as the COVID pandemic was declared a national emergency. Only 50 people were allowed inside St. Patrick Cathedral to witness that ordination Mass.
“I want to express a word of thanks to our ordinandi for their generosity and willingness to receive ordination to the diaconate in the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic,” he said. “I’m very grateful to this class and to their families for putting Christ and the common good of the diocese first.”
A year later, Kathryn Rossman felt “beyond blessed” to watch her son, Thomas Jones, become a priest. As a young child, the Air Force veteran turned seminarian displayed an innate kindness to people and animals. His compassion continued into adulthood.
“When he was in the military, receiving the injured arriving on airplanes in Germany, he would go to the hospital and talk to them and write letters for them. It was a way of encouraging them,” she told the North Texas Catholic.
The mother of three sons believes her youngest child will be an asset to the priesthood.
“I know Tom wants to serve in the military [as a chaplain] and be in those places where he can help the underprivileged and raise them up,” Rossman added. “I couldn’t be more proud and I know his [deceased] father, Orion, who was a very devout Catholic, is with us in spirit today.”
During the multicultural liturgy, Mery Nguyen, sister of Hai Linh Nguyen, was asked to give the Second Reading in Vietnamese.
Waiting for the worship service to begin, she recalled how her older brother was drawn to the Mass even as a child. Their parents, Tuyet and Anthony (Viet) Nguyen, often invited priests from Christ the King parish to the family home for dinner and special celebrations.
“Brothers and sisters in other families played house but we would have pretend Mass. He would be the priest and give us communion,” she enthused.
The 23-year-old always knew her brother was interested in the priesthood but the decision to enter the seminary didn’t come until after graduating high school.
“He told us this is where he was taking his life and to see it come to fruition is wonderful,” Nguyen said. “He’s been working on this for a long time.”
Addressing the soon-to-be priests in his homily, Bishop Olson said their vocation is always a grace and not simply a matter of actions or words. “But rather a matter of how our words and actions are authentic to our personal character,” he pointed out. “It is a matter of how our character corresponds to Christ the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.”
The leader of North Texas Catholics asked the men to remember the example of Saint Maximilian Kolbe who offered his life as a martyr and priest. With the words, “I wish to take this man’s place. I am a Catholic priest,” the Franciscan friar volunteered to take the place of a prisoner who was condemned to die in a starvation bunker at Auschwitz.
“Father Kolbe does not give the guard his own name. He does not identify himself by his prison number. He offers no other reason and wastes no words,” the bishop explained. “He gives his life freely, prophetically, and sacrificially in this moment as a priest with pastoral charity as he takes the place of Franciszek Gajowniczek.”
Fr. Kolbe’s mission as a priest continued in the death chamber where he comforted nine other prisoners with the Gospel and sacraments, “so that, in the end, they do not abandon faith, hope, or charity nor reject the salvation of their souls won for them by Christ’s sacrifice of the cross,” the bishop concluded.
After voicing their willingness to be ordained, and promising obedience to the bishop and his successors, the ordinands prostrated themselves in front of the altar in submission to the will of God as the congregation sang the Litany of the Saints. The ancient prayer of the Church calls upon the saints to intercede on behalf of the men as they approach the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Rising from prayer, each man knelt before the bishop for ordination.
With a gesture first used by the Apostles in choosing the first deacons for the Church, the bishop prayed in silence to the Holy Spirit as he placed his hands on the head of each candidate. A Prayer of Ordination followed the Laying on of Hands and completed the essential act of ordination.
The newly ordained priests received the stole and chasuble — outward signs of the office of the priesthood — before approaching the bishop again to have their hands anointed with Sacred Chrism. Bishop Olson then presented the paten and chalice to each new priest with the words, “Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. Understand what you do. Imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
Bill Moore, a St. Andrew parishioner and a guest of Jason Allan, said, “anytime the Church is able to produce six new priests is a happy day.” The pair met at a St. John Paul II Shepherd’s Guild dinner and connected over a mutual interest in the Navy. Moore is a retired three-star admiral and Allan was commissioned an ensign in the Navy last May. He will see active duty as a chaplain after serving in the diocese for several years.
“Every single person in the military is allowed to worship and our chaplains are there to assist people of all religions,” Moore added. “Jason is committed to Jesus Christ. He’s going to be a great priest.”
After completing his first year of formation at St. Joseph Seminary, Toan Quang Nguyen was eager to help organizers prepare for the ordination.
“This is a sacrament we’re not exposed to often so I’m really excited about today,” said the seminarian from Our Lady of Fatima Parish. “Discerning the priesthood is a whole new journey for me.”