Venice | In a public response to a “call to holiness” Transitional Deacons Grzegorz Klich, Lawton Lang and Charles “Chuck” Ruoff were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Frank J. Dewane June 18 at Epiphany Cathedral as more than 800 people rejoiced.
The newly ordained responded to a particular call in their life and evidenced their response in a profound way by coming forward for ordination. Each reflected afterward about the powerful emotion of the moment, and the calming aspect of the genuine joy and love for the Lord they each have.
The poignant and emotional rite places Fathers Klich, Lang and Ruoff in a new role as they are raised to the Order of the Presbyterate where they will now celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, confer the Sacraments and teach the Gospel.
Bishop Dewane congratulated the ordinandi for answering the call to holiness and advancing in their formation through prayer, discernment, guidance and direction which helped them grow closer to the Lord. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the ordinandi are called to reflect and magnify Christ and bring others closer to Christ.
“You have chosen a particular life and continue to hear that call,” Bishop Dewane said. “You will need to continue to listen to the call of the Lord to make you the holy man of God you were called to be. As a refined instrument of the Lord tasked with a particular role, the idea of holiness must be witnessed in you. This is not a robe that is put on … it comes from within and needs to be worked on in your lives.”
Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest is transformed and marked indelibly as an instrument through which others receive the Sacraments, Bishop Dewane added. “Take God within you and in your heart as you carry out your mission of sanctifying the faithful by uniting them to Christ’s sacrifice.”
When the rite of ordination began, the three elect were called forth. Upon hearing their names each answered, “Present.” After the homily, those to be ordained knelt before the Bishop to promise respect and obedience to him and his successors. They then prostrated themselves before the altar for the Litany of Supplication/Litany of Saints. The whole assembly joined in the prayer which invoked God’s grace and the intercession of the saints in heaven.
After this solemn act of prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Orders was conferred when the men rose and each knelt before Bishop Dewane, who in silent prayer individually imposed his hands on the heads of each of those being ordained. In the sharing of the priesthood, each priest present also laid hands on the heads of the newly ordained.
The three elect then knelt once again before the Bishop who recited the consecratory Prayer of Ordination, which, together with the Bishop’s imposition of hands, is the essential rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
After the prayer, the newly ordained priests were vested in the stole and chasuble, vestments which are worn when celebrating the Eucharist and symbolize the responsibility and authority in service to Christ. Father Klich was vested by Father George Ratzmann, Pastor of St. William Parish in Naples. Father Lang was vested by Father Gregg Caggianelli, a Diocesan priest who is assigned to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Father Ruoff was vested by Msgr. Joseph Stearns, who retired in 2015.
The palms of the new priests were then anointed with the sacred chrism by Bishop Dewane, the sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who will make their ministry fruitful. Next, the Bishop presented each new priest with the chalice and paten, which they are called to present to God in the Eucharistic sacrifice, saying: “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.” He repeated this commission three times, once each for the newly ordained priests.
The Rite of Ordination ended with the Bishop giving a fraternal kiss of peace to each newly ordained priest, welcoming them into the Diocesan presbyterate or priesthood. The priests present then followed the Bishop’s example. The newly ordained then joined Bishop Dewane at the altar to the applause and joy of all present.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist then followed. The new priests joined all the priests for the first time in concelebrating the Eucharist with Bishop Dewane, reciting together the words of consecration. For the first time, they offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, acting in the person of Christ. From this sacrifice their whole priestly ministry will draw its strength.
Father Klich described the ordination as a calming experience, starting the Mass full of nerves and then when he was called forward for the first time, the nerves disappeared and he was ready and in the right frame of mind. “It was wonderful to feel this way,” Father Klich added. “I am full of a joy that I never thought possible.”
For Father Lang, there were several moments when his emotions nearly overwhelmed him, but deep inside he knew he was in the right place at the right time: his priestly ordination.
“Everything I have done in my life brought me to this moment,” he added. “This is a truly humbling experience. None of us are truly worthy, but I am confident the Lord brought me to this moment and this life as a priest. I am looking forward to being God’s instrument of grace and healing. The Lord does all the hard work and I am blessed to be called forward this day.”
Father Ruoff noted that the laying on of the hands by Bishop Dewane evoked a strong emotion in him. “The Bishop conferred spiritual power of grace to carry out the ordained ministry of the Church and for this unique opportunity, I am grateful.
In addition to family and friends, also present at the ordination were more than 60 priests, men and women religious, permanent deacons, the Knights of Columbus and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
The ordination to the priesthood is considered one of the most critical events in the life of the Diocese as it ensures the continuation of the Church and the availability of the Sacraments to the faithful. Since Bishops Dewane became Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, 21 men have been ordained to the priesthood.
A reception followed in the Cathedral Parish hall where the newly ordained formally greeted the public and imparted their priestly blessing upon them.
The newly ordained learned of the first priestly assignments from Bishop Dewane following the Mass. Father Klich will serve as a Parochial Vicar at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers, Father Lang as Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, and Father Ruoff as Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral.