ORLANDO | On July 25, 2020 — the feast day of the apostle James — two transitional deacons were ordained to the priesthood. And both men were glad that day had finally arrived.
“Honestly, I’m just ready to be a priest. That’s what I most look forward to,” said Deacon Adam Marchese as he prepared for the ordination at St. James Cathedral in Orlando. … My favorite saint is Pope John Paul II. He said, ‘People of God, become who you are.’ I truly believe this is what God has called me to do.”
Deacon Thomas Pringle shared that sentiment. His journey to the priesthood began 12 years ago.
“I’m just so excited to be here, to get into a parish and start ministering, to finally share this day with so many people in the diocese – my family, my friends, and all the people in the diocese at all the parishes where I’ve served throughout this time of formation and discernment,” he said.
An hour prior to the Mass, both joked about counting down twice, as their original ordination date had been set for May but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m tired of saying, I’m going to be a priest,” Deacon Marchese. “I’m looking forward to saying…”
At that point, both men looked at one another, smiled and nodded in agreement. “… ‘I am a priest.’”
Sharing in their joy were their families, who participated in Mass from the first row. While attending the vespers service on the eve of the ordination, parents Colleen and Dominick Marchese said the discernment process went by quickly… for them.
“We didn’t do any of that work. For him, he says he remembers every day of it,” Colleen said.
Chris Marchese, his older brother, said one positive thing coming from the COVID-19 crisis was that he could see his brother’s homilies livestreamed.
“Living in Lakeland, I don’t get to see his homilies a lot. It’s a different perspective than how I saw him growing up. A lot of people see him as the future Father Adam. I see him as, that’s my brother,” he said. “I see the man behind the cloth. I think it’s going to be great.”
On the other side of the aisle from the Marcheses was the Pringle family. Parents Valerie and Terry watched with tearful eyes as their son’s name was called, and he answered, “Present.” His sister, Rachael Harvester, and husband, William, joined with their young son.
As the moment of ordination approached, Valerie acknowledged the stress was subsiding.
“It did us well that it took a little bit longer, but it mellowed everything out,” she said while wearing her facemask. “I am just thankful that God gave us this child and that he’s ready to go back to his father. We have to give him up now.”
She was referring to a point in her pregnancy when she and her husband were informed their son would likely be born with Down syndrome. The doctor recommended they terminate the pregnancy. But the family refused. The future priest’s spiritual director suggested it was his parents’ great faith that may have allowed for miracle of priesthood to occur.
“He got involved with altar serving very early and he loved being in the church,” Valerie said. “It just kept growing. I felt it all his life. I thought he was our special gift. He wasn’t supposed to be born.”
In his homily, Bishop John Noonan told the two men, although they are not fishermen, like the saints Peter and Paul and vocation director Father Josh Swallows, “you will become fishers of souls.” Borrowing Pope Francis’ reflections on the priesthood, the bishop said, “’We are not born complete, but need to be constantly ‘woven’, ‘knitted together. Life is given to us as an invitation to continue to weave the ‘wonderful’ mystery that we are.”
“The Scriptures open for you ‘a great love story between God and humanity.’ At its center stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfilment both God’s love for you and your love for God.’ Adam and Thomas, both of you spoke of a deep desire to be men of the Gospel; to weave and knit the Scriptures into your daily life of prayer. St. Paul said, ‘You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.’” (2 Cor 3:3).
The bishop encouraged the men to pray the Scriptures and reflect upon them so their message does not become “empty and dry.” Bishop Noonan also summoned them to “a heart of gratitude, mercy, compassion, vigilance and courage.” He assured the them that through the continuous building of an “intimate relationship with God,” they will form “the basis for personal and pastoral fruitfulness.”
Quoting Pope Francis, the bishop added, “The heart of the priest is a heart pierced by the love of the Lord, for this reason, he no longer looks to himself, but is turned towards God and his brothers and sisters. It is no longer ‘a fluttering heart,’ allured by momentary whims, shunning disagreements and seeking petty satisfactions. Rather, it is a heart rooted firmly in the Lord, warmed by the Holy Spirit, open and available to our brothers and sisters.” In responding, “I do,” to their promises, both priests confirmed their commitment.
Following his ordination, Father Marchese reflected on comments he heard as he prepared for his ordination.
“Some people have said, ‘You seem so natural.’ That’s because that’s what God has asked me to do,” he said. “I can only do what the Lord is calling me to do. I’ve answered that call and that’s what has brought me the most joy and happiness. If you encounter people and you see joy and happiness, it’s because the Lord has given them that.”
Father Pringle said he looks forward to experiencing his life as a priest.
“(I’m) no longer looking from the sidelines and participating from a distance,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being open and receptive to what the Lord wants to do in my life and what the Lord wants to give me — that great gift.”
Father Pringle will serve as parochial vicar at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Indialantic and Father Adam Marchese, a military chaplain, will serve as parochial vicar at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park. Father Marchese will also receive an assignment for his reserve duty for the next three years, until he goes on active duty.