Joy in the Church: Two deacons ordained to the Sacred Order of the Presbyter

North Texas Catholic
(May 21, 2024) Local

Father Grothouse and Father Flores at altar with Bishop Olson

Father Benjamin Grothouse and Father Eric Flores at their ordination Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (NTC/Kevin Bartram)

see the ordination photo gallery

“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our savior, Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, to the order of the priesthood.”

With that declaration from Bishop Michael Olson, and a burst of consenting applause from the congregation, two 28-year-old transitional deacons took a final step in their vocation journey.

Moments later, the bishop conferred the sacrament of holy orders on Eric Homero Flores and Benjamin Hunt Grothouse before a gathering of 500 guests who filled St. Patrick Cathedral on May 18 to witness an Ordination Mass steeped in symbolism and tradition. The Catholic priesthood shares in the priesthood of Christ and traces its origins to the Twelve Apostles.

Welcoming friends and family to the morning liturgy, Bishop Olson expressed gratitude to the parents of the ordinands.

“Thank you for the support you have given your son throughout this journey, not only in the seminary but earlier in life,” he said, addressing Benjamin Grothouse’s father, Tom with wife Michelle, and mother, La Dawn Everette and her husband Nelson. “Through your example, he was able to hear the Gospel and recognize his call.”

Speaking to Homer Flores and his wife Claudia and Mary Regina Moore and her husband John, the bishop recognized the parents’ efforts in “teaching Eric [Flores] right from wrong and guiding and supporting him throughout his life, especially in supporting his discernment of a vocation to the priesthood. Your contribution has been invaluable to the glory of God.”

Offering support, prayers

Members of a young adult group from St. Joseph Parish in Arlington attended the Mass to show their support for clergy and experience a solemn rite that has profound meaning for the life of the Church.

Father Benjamin Grothouse kneels in front of Bishop Olson
Bishop Michael Olson anoints the hands of newly ordained Father Benjamin Grothouse during the Mass of Ordination to the presbyterate on May 18, 2024 at St. Patrick Cathedral (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“Most of us have never been to an ordination before,” said Ronnie Ayala, one of the ministry’s leaders. “We wanted to be part of the celebration and show our support. I firmly believe we need to pray more for our priests. Their job is getting harder and harder.”

Fellow St. Joseph parishioner Aracely Rodriguez voiced a similar view.

“These men are going to be priests in our diocese, and we should welcome them with open arms and be ready to support them with prayer or anything else they need,” she commented.

Parishioners at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Flower Mound began praying for Ben Grothouse when he joined the seminary in 2015 and never stopped. He became endeared to them even more after spending his pastoral year at the parish.

“He was such a blessing to St. Philip’s. Everybody just loves him so much,” Pat Bianca said, remembering how the seminarian helped the parish move into a new church building. “Now, it’s so exciting to see him become a priest.”

Jonelle Masty recalled watching the theology student serve Mass at the parish with the pastor, Father Ray McDaniel.

“Seeing him on the altar as a seminarian — he was so reverent,” she observed. “We’ve seen his growth and development and the way he’s matured. Ben is going to radiate as a priest.”

Nurturing the call

When priests visited Our Lady of Victory School to say Mass, they always asked the elementary age students if anyone thought about a religious vocation.

“Eric would stand up and say, ‘I want to be a priest.’ He knew from the time he was very little,” said Cathy Driscoll, the now closed school’s former librarian who attended the Mass with other OLV teachers.

Attending a Catholic school aided his decision to enter the seminary in 2015 after a year of college.

Eric Flores kneels in front of Bishop Olson
Eric Flores promises respect and obedience to Bishop Michael Olson during the Mass of Ordination to the presbyterate on May 18, 2024 at St. Patrick Cathedral (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“God plants that seed and you have to really listen, and Eric did,” suggested Linda Kuntz, former OLV principal. “The Sisters [of St. Mary of Namur] were present in the school on a regular basis. Being in a religious atmosphere helped Eric hear that call.”

The candidate for the priesthood also graduated from Nolan Catholic High School, where Mark von Rosenberg was his sophomore geometry teacher.

“Eric is the second of my students to become a priest,” said the retired educator who served at the Mass with the Knights of Columbus honor guard. “We’ve remained close since his time at Nolan, and I’m here to show my support.”

Carrying out God’s mission

During his homily, Bishop Olson praised the ordinands as examples of a youth well spent.

“They have persevered in their vocations, discerned with the Church, and done what is necessary so they would be adequately prepared for the next step — priestly ordination and priestly ministry,” he said. “This next step requires a renewed fidelity and personal growth in being configured to Christ, head and shepherd of the Church. It also required God’s grace and our prayers.”

Father Grothouse and Father Flores begin their lives as priests in a world that increasingly acts as if God does not exist, “let alone care for anybody,” he pointed out. “God has called each of these men to the priesthood at the precise moment required for their happiness and salvation that they might conduct the Lord’s mission, entrusted to the Church, to proclaim and carry out the work of salvation throughout the world.”

After the bishop’s homily, the Rite of Ordination continued with the deacons expressing their willingness to perform the duties of the priesthood, followed by promises to respect and obey the bishop and his successors. In a visually powerful moment, the ordinands prostrated themselves before the altar in a gesture of submission to God’s will as the congregation chanted the Litany of the Saints. The ancient Christian prayer is a reminder of the universal call to holiness, especially the call to holiness that marks the life of a priest.

Bishop Olson receives priestly blessing from new priests
Newly ordained Father Benjamin Grothouse (front) and Father Eric Flores give Bishop Michael Olson their priestly blessing at the end of the ordination Mass on May 18, 2024 at St. Patrick Cathedral (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Years of study and formation for the candidates culminated in the most solemn, essential moment of the ordination rite — the laying on of hands. With an ancient sign used by the Apostles in the election of the first deacons for the Church, the bishop imposed his hands on the head of each man as he prayed for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The prayer of consecration completed the actual ordination.

Vested in the outward signs of the priesthood — the stole and chasuble — the newly ordained approached the bishop again to have their hands anointed with holy chrism. Bishop Olson then presented a chalice and paten to each new priest with the words, “Receive the oblation of the holy people being offered to God. Understand what you will do. Imitate what you will celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s promise.”

An inspiring, joyful occasion

Seminarians in the diocese participated in the Ordination Mass as altar servers and ushers. Young men discerning a vocation are encouraged to witness the rite, according to Father Maurice Moon, director of collegian seminarian formation.

“This is what they are aspiring to — giving their life to God, the Church, and others,” explained the St. Joseph Seminary faculty member. “They need to experience what an ordination is like. It’s inspiring.”

Bishop Olson called the ordination of two new priests a joyful occasion for the diocese.

“Today is a joyful day not only in the lives of Father Ben and Father Eric, but also in the life of the Church here,” he told the North Texas Catholic. “It’s a sign of our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit and a growing disposition to praise God, serve His people, and bring the Gospel to the world.”

vocations, priesthood, ordination, Father Eric Flores, Father Benjamin Grothouse, trending-english