Three men in Diocese of Fort Worth ordained as priests

North Texas Catholic
(May 23, 2023) Local

three priests in front of altar

Fathers Brandon LeClair, Austin Hoodenpyle, and Edward Hopkins Jr. pose for a photo at St. Patrick Cathedral on May 20, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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FORT WORTH — Becoming an instrument of Jesus Christ in today’s world by the imposition of hands, three men in the Diocese of Fort Worth joined the ranks of the priesthood May 20 in St. Patrick Cathedral.

Bishop Michael F. Olson conferred the sacrament of holy orders on Brandon Edward LeClair, Austin Travis Hoodenpyle, and Randolph Edward Hopkins, Jr. during an Ordination Mass that included centuries of sacred tradition.

One ritual, the laying on or imposition of hands by the bishop, dates back to the early apostles and symbolizes the invocation of the Holy Spirit. Along with the Prayer of Consecration, it is the essential rite of Holy Orders that sets a priest apart for designated ministry.

A great gift

“The laying on of hands, both by the apostles and the presbyterate, signify the conferral by God of a great gift—the gift of priestly character and ministry,” Bishop Olson explained in his homily to the family and friends of the transitional deacons who filled the cathedral to witness the ordination ceremony.

Quoting the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, the bishop told the candidates the imposition of hands “is as though the Lord says: you are mine now. Your ways are to be my ways…Through this gesture the Lord accepts the offer of your life, and you no longer belong to yourself. You can no longer say, ‘I will do with my life whatever I want.’”

Collaboration and obedience between bishop and priest is needed to care for the Lord’s flock, he continued. True obedience is about unity of will between two collaborators in Christ.

“We are collaborators, and we need each other for the sake of the salvation of the Lord’s flock,” the bishop said. “I rely on you, and I hope that you rely on me.”

Father Mel Besselieu lays hands on Brandon LeClair during the ordination Mass May 20 at St. Patrick Cathedral. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

As they begin a new chapter in ministry, the men can also rely on Jesus Christ to guide them. Using the words of Joseph Ratzinger again, Bishop Olson reminded the ordinands the imposition of hands is not just a gesture of possession, but also one of kindness, tenderness, and protection.

“The Lord says not only, ‘you are mine,’ but also ‘I want to be yours and to accompany you on all your paths. Wherever you walk, you go in the shadow of my hands.’”

Offering welcome and thanks

At the start of the Ordination Mass, Bishop Olson welcomed the parents of the candidates for ordination: Brent and Kelly Hoodenpyle, Ed and Tonya LeClair, and Randy Hopkins. Susan Hopkins, the mother of Deacon Ed Hopkins, passed away last December and “we remember her in prayer this day,” he added.

The bishop thanked the families for their generosity of spirit shown by encouraging their sons’ vocations.

“It was in your home and among your family where our candidates first heard the Gospel and learned to follow His commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor,” he enthused.

Brandon LeClair studied for the priesthood eight years—a process and discernment that seemed to go by quickly, according to his mother Tonya LeClair. The family belongs to St. Jude Parish where the new priest once taught 5th grade religious education.

“To see him go through each step in his formation was wonderful,” the proud mom said. “Brandon thought about other careers, but it always came back to the priesthood.”

She described her son as a caring, patient person who is ready to serve in a parish. The number of relatives and friends who showed support for the seminarian over the years and attended his ordination was overwhelming.

“They followed his progress the whole time, and for them to be here is a blessing,” LeClair said.

Fathers Fernando Preciado and Maurice Moon help vest Father Austin Hoodenpyle during the ordination Mass May 20 at St. Patrick Cathedral. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Tracy Key, Brandon LeClair’s confirmation sponsor, purchased a set of vestments for the new priest.

“We wanted to give him something he could keep forever,” explained the close family friend. “Brandon loves taking care of people and I think that will make him a good shepherd.”

Invoking the Holy Spirit

After promising respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors during the Ordination Rite, the congregation prayed the Litany of the Saints as the candidates prostrated themselves before the altar in an act of submission to the will of God and desire to serve the Church.

Rising from prayer, each man then knelt before the bishop who silently prayed for the gifts of the Holy Spirit as he placed his hands on the ordinand’s head. In a display of shared brotherhood, all the priests present at the Mass also imposed hands on the candidates. After the Prayer of Ordination, the new priests received the outward signs of their new ministry—the stole and chasuble—from fellow priests.

St. Frances Cabrini parishioner Carmine Esposito watched Austin Hoodenpyle grow in faith and maturity since high school. He was not surprised the young man’s formation culminated in the priesthood.

“Even watching him go up to receive the Eucharist—there was such a reverence,” said Esposito. “You knew there was something very special about him.”

Maria Carrera met Hoodenpyle when he taught RCIA at St. Philip the Apostle Parish as part of his seminarian training.

“He was so knowledgeable about the faith and can communicate it with such kindness and gentleness,” she said. “You could see the love of God in him.”

Imitate what you celebrate

Once the hands of the newly ordained were anointed with Holy Chrism signifying their purpose in blessing and consecrating the Eucharist, the gifts of bread and wine were brought to the altar by Garrett Adam and Emma Bouillion. Bishop Olson then presented each priest with a chalice and paten with the words, “Receive the oblation of the Holy People to be 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.”

Seated with his daughter, Elizabeth, Ed Hopkins’ father, Randy Hopkins, remembered his late wife, Susan, as he waited for the Ordination Mass to begin.

“She’s in our hearts and minds today and I know she was very happy for him,” he said, referring to Ed Hopkins’ decision to convert and pursue the Catholic priesthood.

Calling his son a sensitive person with a caring heart, Hopkins believes the former special education teacher will make a good priest.

Bishop Michael Olson presents Father Edward Hopkins Jr. with the paten and chalice during the ordination Mass on May 20. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“The experience with his mom will help him be more sensitive and compassionate to the people who need help.”

Rural parishioners in Cisco, Eastland, Ranger, and Strawn experienced some of that caring personality when Ed Hopkins, then a seminarian, helped organize Vacation Bible School and worked on other projects.

“Deacon Ed was a close friend of my late husband, and we attended his ordination to the diaconate last year,” said Denise Snodgrass, who attends Mass at St. Rita Church in Ranger. “He’s just a wonderful person. Very kind and loving.”

Celebrating the moment

The enthusiasm shown by the congregation during the Ordination Mass impressed first-year seminary student Xavier Polisetty.

“My favorite part was seeing the faith of everyone—not just the deacons who are now priests—but the amazing choir and people singing their hearts out,” said the Texas A&M computer science graduate. “It was nice witnessing the whole Catholic universal Church coming together to celebrate this amazing moment. I want that to be me someday.”

Anytime the diocese celebrates an ordination is a great day, Bishop Olson said.

“Not simply because we have three more priests, but we have these three new priests who’ve been formed and shaped and grown in their faith,” he told the North Texas Catholic. “They have a great desire to serve God and His people gathered here in North Texas.”

Father Austin Hoodenpyle is assigned to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller. Father Brandon LeClair will serve at St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, and Father Ed Hopkins will begin his priestly ministry at St. Jude Parish in Mansfield.

Ordination, Diocese of Fort Worth, Brandon Edward LeClair, Austin Travis Hoodenpyle, Randolph Edward Hopkins, Jr., priesthood, priest, vocation, trending-english