On 3 July, the feast of St. Thomas, a packed congregation filled St. Mary’s Pro-cathedral in Abercromby Street for the ordination of three young men to the priesthood – and that despite the logistical challenge of getting to the church as the Orange Walk was due at Glasgow Green just down the road at the same time! The three candidates for ordination were Ross Campbell, Martin Kane and John Sweeney.
There was an air of anticipation as people waited for the service to begin. People responded warmly to the invitation to rehearse the psalm response, the Litany of Saints responses and the Alleluia. St. Mary’s looked truly beautiful for the occasion, and the St. Mungo Singers provided reflective music before the Mass, including “To Christ the Seed”, “Jesu, Rex Admirabilis” and “Sacris Solemniis”.
As the concelebrants and candidates processed into the church, the congregation, led by the choir, sang the Pauline greeting “Grace to you and peace”, followed by the joyful “For all the saints”. The large number of priests from the Archdiocese and beyond who had come to the Ordination bore witness to the importance of the celebration, and Archbishop Conti was joined by Bishop Joe Toal of Argyll & the Isles Diocese who knew the candidates from their visits to Salamanca during their training.
After the Penitential Rite, the note of celebration was renewed with the singing of the Dunkeld Gloria, and it was great to hear the clergy and congregation raising the roof as they sang with enthusiasm.
The Liturgy of the Word was that of the feast of St. Thomas – Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 116 to a setting by Fr. Gerry Fitzpatrick; Ephesians 2:19-22; and John 20:24-29. The opportunity was taken to use the Gospel Acclamation written for the Papal Mass “Go, make disciples” which was very appropriate for the occasion.
The Rite of Ordination then followed. After the calling forward of the candidates, Archbishop Conti preached the homily. He greeted the three candidates as co-workers in saving God’s people, called to share in the priesthood of the Bishop and be moulded into the likeness of Christ. Referring to the Gospel reading, he noted the invitation of Jesus to Thomas to give him his hand. He asked what had attracted Thomas to Jesus in the first place – it had been something which had touched his heart. For each of the candidates, there had been that experience too of the call which touched their hearts.
He reminded the candidates that faith is not easy and it demands sacrifice but sacrifice strengthens faith. They were called to a life of integrity and witness but they should take comfort from Jesus’ words to Thomas that “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. Referring to the Epistle reading, he pointed out that their ordination would build them into the structure of the church, and it was for them then to bring people into unity in the church. They should keep in mind the example of Mary in the first reading who joined in continuous prayer with the Apostles.
After the formal examination of the candidates, everyone present joined in the responses to the sung Litany of Saints, as the candidates prostrated themselves before the altar. There followed the Laying on of Hands by the Archbishop and all of the priests present. This was done in silence but there was a palpable atmosphere of prayerful attention from the congregation. After the prayer of consecration by Archbishop Conti, the new priests were vested in stole and chasuble as a sign of their new status while the choir sang “God be in my Head”. Finally the Archbishop anointed the hands of each new priest.
The Mass then proceeded with the presentation of gifts and the preparation of the altar as the congregation joined in singing “I the Lord of sea and sky” with its very apt chorus of “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night…”. In a quite emotional ritual, the new priests were now given the kiss of peace by the Archbishop and each of the priests present, and the pleasure felt by the priests at greeting their new colleagues was very visible.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist continued with the preface sung by Archbishop Conti and the (Kelvinhall) Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation by all present with a sense of real joy. During the distribution of the Eucharist, the St. Mungo Singers led the congregation in singing the Lourdes Benedictus with verses by Noel Donnelly, and the simple but lovely “Be still and know that I am God”. The choir also sang the well-loved Mozart “Ave Verum”.
In his closing remarks, Archbishop Conti invited the congregation to take their own opportunity now to congratulate the three new priests, and the invitation brought loud and prolonged applause. The Archbishop, for his part, remarked that in honour of the ordinations, he had chosen to wear the chasuble that Pope John Paul II had worn at Bellahouston and the mitre that he had been given for his own Silver Jubilee as a Bishop.
After the final blessing by the Archbishop, the new priests also gave the congregation their blessing. The service then ended with the concelebrants processing out to the Newman hymn “Praise to the Holiest”. The choir concluded with ‘Regina Coeli’ by Lotti. The congregation was then invited gently to leave expeditiously as there was a wedding scheduled for 2pm ( and it was now after 1.40pm!) and the wedding party would rather like to get in.
As the congregation made their way out, the new priests gave individual blessings to members of their families, as the choir sang “Regina Coeli” to give a joyful ending to a very warm and lovely service.